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Original Issue

The NFL's New Leaf

For tech-savvy teams, the digital playbook will be a game changer

It is an NFL ritual. Each year in training camp the Turk finds players who are about to be cut and tells them, "Coach wants to see you. Bring your iPad."

iPad? Welcome to the new NFL, where technological advances—and economic, environmental and security issues—are about to make thick, paper-filled playbooks as outdated as the Wing-T. Currently, the Buccaneers and the Ravens are the only teams digitizing playbooks, but as many as 16 clubs could be doing so by next year.

"People say that might be a $100,000 expense, but it costs more than that to copy and print playbooks over the course of a year," says Falcons G.M. Thomas Dimitroff, whose players already use iPads to watch game video.

With roughly 7.6 million sheets of paper a season expended on playbooks, the impact on the environment is clear as well. Another benefit is better control of access to information, as clubs will be able to remotely erase lost playbooks. Digital playbooks also will help young players, who've grown up with technology, in their game preparation. And that could help them stay a step ahead of the Turk.