Do All NFL Players Have Headsets In Their Helmets?

Last Modified Sep 20, 2023 12:22 GMT
NFL helmet with green dot on the back
NFL helmet with green dot on the back - Image courtesy - Getty images


Having a piece of electronic device inside a helmet for means of communication surely sounds like a much more modern invention than it really is. The origins of this little discovery in reality goes all the way back to 1956. At the time, NFL head coach Paul Brown who was also the coach of the Cleveland Browns was approached by two inventors from Ohio, namely, John Campbell and George Sarles to try out a headset which would enable the coach to speak with his quarterback on the field. However, this technology which was being unfairly used only by one team was banned just three games into the preseason.


After 1956, it would take nearly four decades for the helmet radio to see the day of light once again. It made its way back into the league from the 1994 season onwards and just made everyone’s life a whole lot easier as coaches didn’t have to use hand gestures or keep sending substitutes into the game just to communicate with their team. Now, close to three decades later, we are seeing this type of communication on almost every play which makes it easier for coaches on the sidelines to call out plays or adjust something on the field.


Who wears headsets in the NFL?

Headsets in the NFL are restricted only to coaches so they can communicate among themselves as well as with a player on the field. The headset has a built-in microphone which allows them to talk directly to one player on the field. Usually on the offense, it is the quarterback while on the defense, it is the middle linebacker.


Since the NFL does not allow players to communicate back to their coaches, their helmets are not fitted with a headset. Rather, players are allowed to have a helmet equipped with a speaker but not a microphone.


How many NFL players have headsets?

As per the current rules, players on a team are not allowed to use headsets in their helmets. However, only one offensive and one defensive player is allowed to hear what a coach is saying as means of communication. And as a result, these players' helmets are fitted only with speakers to have a one-way mode of communication.


Generally the quarterback is the easiest choice on the offensive side of the ball as he is the commander of the offense and will lead the team down the field. As for the defensive player, more often than not, it will either be a middle linebacker or a safety who has a helmet fitted with a speaker. These are the best options considering they have the best possible position with respect to the other players and can quickly call out any modifications coming from the sidelines to their teammates.


Can quarterbacks hear the coach?

Quarterback helmets are equipped only with a speaker in their helmet. Ideally the NFL allows one offensive and defensive player to be equipped with a speaker in their helmet. On the offense it just makes most sense that the said player should be the quarterback as he is the one controlling everything. The quarterbacks typically are able to hear the coach call a play from the sideline but that communication gets automatically cut when the play clock runs down to 15 seconds.


The information provided by the coach also depends on what the quarterback in question wants to hear. Former quarterback in the NFL, J. T. O'Sullivan who hosts ‘The QB School’ show on youtube answered this question stating that sometimes a quarterback doesn’t want any other information apart from the play call. He further said that he has also been around few other quarterbacks who want much more details and are absolutely fine listening to the coach even while they are relaying the play to the team in the huddle.


Do NFL quarterbacks have earpieces?

The helmets of quarterbacks are typically fitted with speakers on both sides of their ears so that they can hear what play the coach is calling. Although many experienced players have said that a lot of background noise, especially the crowd noise makes it harder to hear, the communication still remains quite clear.


NFL helmet communication rules

The NFL has put in place certain rules for players who will be wearing helmets fitted with a communication device. The rules are as follows:


  • Only one player on the offense and one player on the defense of a team is allowed to wear a helmet with a speaker inside it.

  • The helmet of a player must be fitted only with a speaker and not a microphone since only one-way communication is allowed in the NFL.

  • The communication will automatically get switched off when the play clock winds down to 15 seconds. This way the quarterback is left to do the thinking on the field in case he wants to audible or sees any changes from the defense.

  • All players who are wearing communication devices in their helmets must have a green dot on the back of the helmet. This is useful for referees to identify which players are communicating with their coaches.

  • If one of the team’s communication systems fails then technically both teams are supposed to stop using this piece of technology for the remainder of the game.


Conclusion

The conclusion of this technology is that it is an added advantage for coaches to get verbal communication across to their players. Even if that may be the case, each team is limited to a one-way communication from coaches to player and not vice-versa. Furthermore, each team can designate only one offensive and one defensive player that can use an audio device inside his helmet.

FAQs

A. Players are not allowed to wear headsets in their helmets. Only one player on both offense and defense can wear a helmet with a speaker inside it. 

A. The green dot at the back of an NFL player’s helmet indicates to the referee that the said player is wearing a communication device.

A. Yes, NFL coaches will make use of headset to communicate amongst themselves and to speak to a specific player on the field.

A. NFL quarterbacks are not permitted to have a microphone in their helmet as the league only allows a one way communication from a sideline coach to the player on the field and not vice-versa.

A. NFL coaches can only communicate with the quarterback or the defensive player until the play clock reaches 15 at which point the communication gets cut off.

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