Late in Thursday night's preseason game with the Redskins, television cameras caught Patriots defensive tackle Tommy Kelly sitting on a bench on the Patriots sideline, flipping through color pictures on an electronic tablet.
Bill Belichick explained that New England's first preseason game of the season was the first time the Patriots had used tablets on the sidelines, and that they were useful as an alternative to the printed sheets of paper teams have used for years to go over pictures of plays that took place on the field during a particular game.
"The tablets were a good experience for all of us," Belichick said in a conference call Friday. "We've never used those during the game. It's always been pictures basically on a piece of printed paper off the printer. You could write on them and they're paper copies. The tablets, you have the ability to hold all the pictures in the one tablet so you can kind of scroll through them. Certainly much more concise and I'd say the quality of the tablets is good, the clarity of the pictures is good."
But as Belichick, a noted technophobe, was quick to point out, the tablets aren't a perfect replacement to the old-fashioned method.
"The issues are those are wireless tablets down on the field and so if the wireless or wifi isn't connected or isn't working or something happens, then you get nothing. You get zero," Belichick said. "So that happened in our game, and it's happened in other games from my understanding of talking to other people that have done it there too. I'm trying to get a little feedback on that . . . We have the same tablets in the press box, and in the press box it's not wireless so those are pretty much on and always available unless there was some big power outage. It would take something pretty significant to knock those out. In the press boxes they're good. On the field they have, to my knowledge, I don't have a big sample here, but from who I've talked to they've had a lot of instances where they function for the entirety of the game, but at some point they were down and then they came back."
Unlike the social media sites that Belichick calls "MyFace, YourFace, InstaFace," he's shown he's willing to give the tablets a try. But, much like his players, the tablets have some work to do before they prove to him that they're ready for game action.
"I think there's some pluses to them," Belichick said. "I think there's some things that we need to get used to in terms of using a new product. I wouldn't say it's a new technology, it's a new product in the way it's organized. But the consistency, or lack of, and the tenability of it based on the connections or whatever the technical aspects of it are -- which isn't really my thing, you know -- makes it a little different issue as to the dependability."
Belichick added: "It's really not knew information. It's not like we're getting a new picture or a new view, or a new anything we haven't seen before. I'd say the way it comes on a tablet is it's all together and easier to access is the plus side of it. So far the overall being able to count on it being all connected and working right is I guess what we're working through."