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Playbooks Go Digital

Posted May 25, 2012

Starting this season, Broncos players will receive iPads for studying the playbook and watching game film.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Broncos players won’t have to leaf through hundreds of pages to find a play they need to study anymore. Instead, they can just speak into their new iPad and it will take them to the play they are looking for.

The team took part in a one-hour meeting where members of the Broncos video department led the players through the features of their new iPads on Thursday.

Each player received an iPad that has the capability to hold practice video, video cut-ups of the upcoming opponent, playbooks, team travel itineraries, nutrition plans and other notes and team announcements.

"As far as the film study and the ease with which it can be done, the film will be downloaded automatically when the players walk in the building,” Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway said. “It's just going to continue to grow in that direction from where we were with the old paper playbooks to now having everything in the iPads. It's unique, and all these guys are very well-accustomed to the iPads and know them very well.”


The iPads are much easier for players to carry around than the bulky binders that the playbooks used to be held in. The convenience factor will make it easier for the players to take their study materials home and on the plane when the Broncos travel for road games.

“It's much easier for the players, which will be better for them,” Elway said. “When it's easier, they look at more film. So it's going to be a great complement and we're looking forward to it. “

Converting to digital playbooks makes it easier and more efficient for coaches and the team’s administrative staff to send updates to the players.

Should the scheduled departure time change for a road trip, an update can be pushed immediately to each player’s iPad.

The camera that is included in each iPad also syncs with the playbook app. If a coach draws a play on a whiteboard during a meeting, players can use their iPads to take pictures that can be saved to specific pages in the playbook for reference later.

Players don’t have to worry about managing the content either – the coaches and video department will simply push out the old information with the new, so running out of space on the 32 gigabyte iPads won’t be an issue.


The ability to watch video of upcoming opponents is included with the playbook application for the iPad. The team’s video department can push cut-ups of practice film, upcoming opponent film or any other game tape that the player requests.

Like the playbook, the video is stored on the hard drive of the iPad, so there is no wireless internet connection necessary to view the content.

The video player has several controls available, including the standard fast forward, rewind, play and pause options. If a player wants to watch a play in greater detail, he has the ability to use slow motion – or he can speed the play up – with a touch of a finger.


Players will have full note-taking options available with the iPads. While looking at the playbook, players have the option to highlight or underline text. When a line of text is underlined or highlighted, it automatically becomes a bookmark.

The note-taking system makes it very easy for a player to come up with a system that allows the notes to be sorted by color. There is also a freehand drawing system for players to draw quick notes or symbols on plays.

For more legible and longer notes, players can insert a comment sticky-note onto any page in the playbook using their keyboard to type in the note – or with speech-to-text recognition software that is included in the iPad.

Each player will only get information that is relevant to his role with the team. When coaches push new plays or information, they have the option of selecting which group or groups should receive the update.

Groups can be as general as offense, defense or special teams and can be whittled down to specific position groups if the update would be designed for defensive linemen, but not safeties, for example.

The device also has a search function, so a player can type in a specific play name or position code to jump to that play or to scan through the playbook, focusing only on his position.


Another pertinent feature of the digital transition is that the content is controlled remotely by the organization, which makes it far more secure than paper playbooks that could be lost or stolen. If an iPad were to become lost or stolen – or if a player is traded or released – the data could be wiped clean with the click of a button.

To log onto the device, players must enter an organizational pin code, followed by their own personalized password. If someone tries to log on to the iPad with an incorrect pin or password five consecutive times, all of the data is automatically wiped clean as a security measure.

In the past, if a player lost his playbook or had it stolen, all of the team’s plays would be available to the thief.  The iPads make it nearly impossible for the team’s sensitive game strategy to fall into the wrong hands.

Going Green, Saving Green

The move to iPads will also benefit the environment as the team is able to cut back on its paper use. Instead of copying hundreds of pages for each player’s weekly playbook, everything will be stored on the iPad.

While purchasing iPads for each player may seem like a costly venture, in the long run the move will save the team money as it cuts back on paper usage.

“It's good that it saves cost on the paper and it is green to where we can be a little bit more conservative," Elway said.

The transition will be gradual – for players and coaches who feel more comfortable with the paper, hard-copy version those will still be available this year if requested.

Starting in 2013, the plan is for iPads to be the only playbook version available.

As the players explored their new iPads, most were excited about the new device and most of all about not having to haul the paper binders around everywhere they went.

Looking back at his own playing career, Elway wishes he would have had access to playbooks on iPads as well.

"I would've, no question,” he said. “Especially for the film work that you can get off it, because of the amount of film you can put on them. And it's easy -- you can carry it to the house. I would've loved to have it."