The Arizona Cardinals—who will host the Green Bay Packers in the NFC’s Divisional Round on Saturday—have embraced and utilized a new technology that could be the future for football preparation at the highest levels.
According to Josh Weinfuss of ESPN, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians took an offseason tip from Clemson head coach Dabo Sweeney and invited Derek Belch—the founder and CEO of STRIVR Labs—to Arizona. His virtual reality technology, which uses a collection of cameras to capture a 360-degree view of the field for use in virtual headsets, immediately won over Arians and his players.
Carson Palmer and the Cardinals quarterbacks have benefited most.
“It’s another way of watching film. The same time I spend watching film, I spend on the STRIVR,” said Palmer, who admits he uses the technology six days a week. “I spend almost as much time on the STRIVR as I do just on the playbook, going through different reads and progression, so it’s a huge part of what I do.”
Virtual reality has a chance to become the prep tool of the future. While watching traditional film provides the big picture from an aerial view, wearing the headsets can allow players to throw themselves back unto the field and see the game as if they were playing it live.
“It’s easy to sit there and watch film like all of us have in the past and say, ‘OK, this is what I would’ve done,’” backup quarterback Drew Stanton said. “When you have that kind of vantage point [with the headset on], it’s like, ‘OK, I would’ve done this. The safeties rotated here. I can see the displacement.’ But when you’re actually at eye level and seeing everything else around you, it’s such an impressive tool from the point you can’t simulate it any other way.”
The Cardinals ranked second in points scored and first in yards gained in 2015, while Palmer threw a career-high 35 touchdown passes.
But the technology isn’t just for quarterbacks. Any position group can reap the benefits. In fact, six of Arizona’s position groups now use the headsets for preparation, including the linebackers.
Cardinals inside linebacker Kevin Minter utilizes the technology as one of his primary teaching tools.
“It changes the whole thing,” Minter said. “It helped me almost slow it down to an extent and learn how I fit in certain things. With the split zone it can be one back, it can be two backs and that changes the whole fit.”
According to Weinfuss, six NFL teams and 14 college teams currently use STRIVR’s equipment. The list includes the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings in the NFL, and Clemson and Stanford in college football. Expect his client base to grow as more and more success stories pour out from across the country.
Football remains an ever-evolving game. Those not scared to try new things and embrace change will always be ahead of the pack. As Palmer and the Cardinals have showed, Belch’s innovative virtual technology can be a valuable instrument. The future of teaching and preparation in football is here.