Any avid NFL fan has likely noticed their favorite sideline coaches speaking animatedly into headsets during games. But the question is, who are they talking to? Do players also have headsets installed in their helmets?
The first time that the NFL decided to permit the use of headsets for players on the field was in 1994. And though headsets are now allowed, the NFL has established certain guidelines as to who can use headsets and when coaches can address players directly during play.
Though NFL quarterback helmets include headsets, these players cannot speak with coaches while on the field. Thus, their headsets are not equipped with a microphone that allows them to respond. Coaches can speak with the quarterback before each play and up to 15 seconds before the play clock cuts.
If you would like to pick out which players have a headset in their helmet, search for a green dot. Only these helmets have communication capacities.
Let’s outline the NFL rules and regulations regarding headsets.
What Are The NFL Guidelines Regarding Headsets?
The NFL strictly regulates how players and coaches use headsets while in play. Though coaches can communicate amongst themselves freely, only a couple of coaches have the power to communicate with their quarterback or other players.
Besides the aforementioned 15-second rule, only one offensive player and one defensive player can wear a helmet fitted with a headset on the field. These players are usually the quarterback and middle linebacker.
The total number of players allowed to have headsets are two defensive players and three quarterbacks. NFL quarterback helmets (and defensive players’ helmets) can only receive communications from the sideline coach – the booth is not allowed to address them.
Coaches from the opposing team cannot speak with other players, only their designated sportsman. Finally, either team must cut their headsets automatically if the other team’s systems have failed.
Headset Rules For NCAA Division I
In college football, players are not allowed to communicate with the sidelines during play via headsets. Hand signals are permitted.
The NCAA allows both teams to have 23 headsets so long as players and coaches do not use them for coaching purposes during a game.
Players can use eight of these headsets for limited reasons. Coaches and assistants get the 15 remaining headsets to communicate amongst themselves. Each conference can create unique rules for how players and coaches can use their dedicated headsets.
History Of Headsets In The NFL
Though the NFL did not permit headsets until 1994, the league could have easily introduced this technology much earlier. It was because of a ban in 1956 that the NFL did not introduce headsets until the ‘90s.
After coach Paul Brown of the Cleveland Browns communicated via headset with his quarterback during a preseason game against Detroit, the league banned player-coach communication via headset during the game. However, the Commissioner, Bert Bell, allowed coaches to continue communicating via headset.
When headsets first became widely used in the NFL, they had to perform all radio communications on analog frequencies. Thus, opposing teams made a pact to avoid listening in to the other team’s communications.
It wasn’t until 2012 that digital systems became the NFL’s norm.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Are Headsets Fitted In The Player Helmet?
Helmets include two speakers on either side of the head that act as the players’ headsets. These speakers are at ear-level so that players can hear their coach’s voice and don’t need to worry about muffled sound or other interference.
Is There Wireless Connection?
Technology has advanced significantly in recent years, meaning that, yes, modern headsets use a wireless connection. Comically, the first NFL headsets needed wires to function. Thus, there was a dedicated assistant who followed their coach around to manage the wire.
Related article – Do Wireless Headsets Have A Delay?
What Brand Has Engineered These NFL Headsets?
Until 2012, the NFL used Motorola headsets. They decided not to renew their contract, leaving a two-year gap where there was no official NFL headset brand. That changed in 2014, however, when the NFL signed a contract with Bose.
Bose was initially uninterested in becoming an NFL partner due to the specialized engineering that the NFL’s standard communication system required. In the end, they caved, becoming the NFL’s official headset sponsor.
However, their work did not stop there. Bose had to blend both aviation and military technology to create the one-sided headsets that coaches wear today.
The headset has noise-canceling capabilities, and the microphone can weed out most exterior noise while the coach speaks. Each team also has personalized, encrypted frequencies unique to them.
Related article – 6 Best Bose Headphones For Bass & Buying Guide
Do Players Appreciate Constant Communication With Their Coaches?
Though 25 seconds is not a lot of time to give advice, most players have found football helmet headsets to be useful. Players who are new to a leadership position on the field appreciate the guidance that their coaches provide.
Most experienced players find that the headsets give them extra confidence on the field, helping them carry out certain plays or confirm how they want to guide the team. However, not everyone appreciates having their coach in their ear.
Aaron Rodgers, the current quarterback with the Green Bay Packers, has admitted that he sometimes pretends like his headset has shorted temporarily to call his plays rather than follow his coach’s advice. So, not everyone likes them!
Related article – Why Do Coaches Wear Headsets In Football?
Can Players With Headsets Still Hear The Crowd?
Though the microphone provided to the coach can mostly isolate their voice amongst the noise, the players’ helmets do not provide full noise cancellation. Thus, many players compare the experience to hearing a loudspeaker over a screaming crowd.
NFL quarterback helmets have proven a valuable addition to the professional football league. The only question left is whether other professional or amateur football leagues will decide to adopt the same technology into their rule books and games.
It seems likely that other leagues will eventually adopt in-play communication via headset. As technology advances and the NFL continues to set the standard by continuously upgrading to new technologies, smaller leagues are likely to follow.