The Buffalo Bills found the latest way to track players' exertion while getting the most out of them.
With technology built by Australian-based Catapult, the Bills this training camp will monitor the strength and condition factors of players with a GPS device the size of a phone pager, according to the Bills' official website.
"The number one goal of this system right now is trying to help prevent injury as well as help us with the rehab process," said strength and conditioning coordinator Eric Ciano. "There are a lot of different things that goes into it, but the biggest thing is how can we monitor guys on the field to help us get the information? What do they really do at their position? How far does a receiver really run in practice? How fast does a receiver run in practice? Then create standards for each position group to be able to say, 'Well this guy has done four days in a row in this (work rate) zone, this guy is at risk for injury.' That's the main reason we did it."
Catapult's system has provided the Bills with individual GPS tracking devices that capture measurable data on each player, such as acceleration and deceleration, change of direction, top speed and total distance run. The GPS devices, which are about the size of a pager, sit inside a pocket just below the neck line on the back of the undershirt each player wears under their pads.
The devices, which Catapult created for Australian Rules Football and English Premier League soccer teams, are removed by Ciano and his staff after every practice. The information about every player's workout is downloaded into the team's computers.
The result is that players are anxious to know their daily workload.
Ciano says there are anywhere from 50 to 100 variables that can be measured by the devices to provide information on how hard a player is working. The term used by the Catapult system is called 'player load.'
"It's a value of five different variables," said Ciano. "There's acceleration, change of direction, deceleration is different, but it basically is a measure of how hard that practice was for that individual athlete."
Player loads that exceed 300 are considered high. Over 400 is very high. If days like that are repeated consecutively for individual players Ciano and his staff are required to make the coaching staff aware of it.
"If he's had four practices in a row and his player load is through the roof and his distance is really high then we may have to say, 'Hey coach we may have to be careful with this,' " said Ciano.
-- Bill Bradley, contributing editor