Nothing, it appears—in the NFL, anyway—is sacred.
League executives in New York are mandating that all 32 teams install permanent cameras in their home locker rooms before their first preseason game in early August.
NFL honchos are giving teams some leeway to decide which content will be videotaped and how that content will be shown. But it’s clear the league expects teams to give fans compelling behind-the-scenes action to watch.
The Indianapolis Colts are still trying to figure out how they’re going to comply.
“This is a new frontier—for all the teams,” said Colts Chief Operating Officer Pete Ward. “We’re looking at and discussing things like where the camera will be mounted and how this content will be used.”
One thing is certain: The league feels this is what fans crave.
The Colts likely had a big role in leading NFL owners down this road.
Coach Chuck Pagano’s stirring post-game speeches while battling leukemia provided some of the most compelling moments of last year’s season.
Those moments wouldn’t have been captured had Colts employees not videotaped them with a hand-held recorder, posted them on the team’s website, and later distributed the clips to national television networks and local affiliates. Last season was the first the Colts regularly videotaped locker room action.
The Colts’ video test run demonstrated the power of the content with fans. Ward said: “There’s no question, those video clips were some of the most viewed content on the team’s website.”
NFL executives want teams to go beyond post-game rah-rah speeches, and hope the cameras will catch rarely seen footage of pregame and halftime player-coach discussions and speeches along with post-game addresses.
There are concerns.
“We have to be sensitive to the game preparations,” Ward said. “We want to respect the privacy of the players and coaches and we certainly don’t want to give away anything in our game plan.”
And naturally, NFL officials said, it’s imperative to keep all the content G-rated and suitable for all audiences.
The NFL seems especially interested in teams’ using the footage to enhance the in-stadium experience.
It’s not clear how teams would pull footage from the locker room together in a timely way and make it compelling for their fans.
The Colts, Ward said, could use footage on the Lucas Oil Stadium video board, the team’s website or on team-sponsored television shows. It could also be distributed to TV stations for rebroadcast. Colts Multimedia Coordinator Joe Stoll and other existing staffers will be in charge of managing the new video operations.
Many teams are struggling with who decides what is shown and when. It could become a tug-of-war, some NFL insiders said, between the football operations staff and the business side—chiefly sales and marketing folks. The Colts are expected to consult Pagano on what he feels comfortable having videotaped.
Taping halftime locker room activity—an emphasis among NFL brass in New York—could be especially challenging.
The locker room during the 12-minute halftime can be utterly chaotic, with players running to the bathroom and some to the training room and equipment room for adjustments, position coaches pulling their groups of players together, then the whole team gathering for a minute or so to be addressed by the head coach.
Only a small handful of teams have jumped into regularly videotaping players and coaches in the locker room. In recent years, the Dallas Cowboys have used pregame locker room clips on their stadium’s massive video boards. The Baltimore Ravens have taped locker room activity to use in pregame introductions.
“We want to give our fans as much access as possible,” Ward said. “We just need to make sure we do it in a way that makes sense for everyone involved.”