Whistle while you work: Colts try high-tech football to curtail fumbles

As training for the 2016 NFL season begins, the Indianapolis Colts are one of four teams using cutting-edge technology to teach their players to hang onto the football.

The Colts, Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers are using singing—whistling, actually—footballs to help players keep a solid grip on the rock, according to the inventor of the new technology.

The High and Tight football, created by Northwood (Michigan) University assistant coach Tom Creguer, whistles when a player holds the ball tightly and with the proper form. To hear that sweet whistling sound, a player must hold the ball point-up so it doesn’t get loose.

In 2010, when he was coaching Shepherd High School in Michigan, Creguer began designing the High and Tight prototype. Later that year, he went to a sensor convention, where he learned about surface compression. He joked that he was the only coach in a room full of scientists and engineers.

He went through seven prototypes in five years before debuting the High and Tight at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February.

The High and Tight ball has a sensor on each of the ball’s panels. If the ball is angled correctly and held tightly to the chest, it whistles. If it loses contact, the ball is silent.

“It’s not about brute strength,” Creguer said. “It’s constant pressure and closing the gap. … You’ve got to have muscle memory.”

The ball is priced at $150 on its website.

In 2015, the Colts were 20th in the 32-team league with 19 fumbles. That was far from perfection, but not bad for a 16-game season, right? Except the Colts ranked sixth in the league with 11 fumbles resulting in change of possession. Any football coach knows limiting turnovers is a key to success.

In 2014, it was far worse. The Colts were tied with the Washington Redskins for the league lead with 31 fumbles. The team lost 15 of those fumbles, more than any other team.

Creguer is betting his football will help his clients with ball security. Northwood, an NCAA Division II program, started using the High and Tight football last year and cut its number of fumbles in half—to seven—from the previous year, according to Creguer.

Dallas Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett—whose team started using the High and Tight football during rookie minicamp earlier this year—is a believer.

“It’s a good technology. It’s a good mechanism to have,” Garrett told ESPN of the High and Tight football. “[Running back coach Gary Brown] says, ‘I want that ball singing.’ So if he has the ball up, it’s going to sing. That's a different way to reinforce the importance of ball security.”

Colts officials didn't provide a representative to discuss use of the product before IBJ deadline, but the new ball is expected to be in play this week at the team’s three-day veteran minicamp.


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