Pittsburgh, the Baltimore Ravens biggest NFL rival, are currently using and experimenting with robotic tackling dummies. Though that does sound peculiar, know the Ravens have also sent an order for these machines.
During OTA’s and other offseason workouts the Mobile Virtual Player (MVP) has been of use consistently and tremendously for the Steelers.
"The applications we are quickly finding are really endless," said Mike Tomlin on the Steelers’ website. "It never gets tired. It runs at an appropriate football speed. All of the position groups are getting an opportunity to use it. It’s funny, you just put it on the field and watch the guys and they show you the applications. It’s been fun watching that".
No doubt in my mind would it be fun to watch professional football players work drills with a 16 mile per hour football dummy zooming and zipping from sideline to sideline. But what are the benefits?
Safety & Health
Football is a grueling and demanding professional sport. There are only 16 game seasons for the sake of player health. Meanwhile, both hockey and basketball post 82 game regular seasons (with longer playoffs), and baseball trumps all with a 162 game season. Okay, you get it, but the point I’m getting at, is players on top of all games have full contact practices all season long. They need to rest when possible, and the MVP can help.
If the Ravens acquired eleven of these MVP’s, which I suspect would be the case if ordered, could simulate offensive and defensive schemes, practices, and help to keep tired and burnt out legs from complete exhaustion. No longer are players on their feet an extra 30-45 minutes simulating plays or formations. Instead, the MVP’s stand tall in formation to help show players who to guard, or whiz around, allowing players to know where to attack, defend, and receive special instruction on specific scenarios. Like Tomlin said, the applications are quickly becoming endless.
Hitting drills are an absolute necessity for youth football, meaning NFL practices contain them to a professional degree. Instead of constantly hitting and tackling your teammates, a couple rounds on the dummy helps to leave the players less battled & bruised. Say they hit dummies for 15 minutes a practice. Throughout 16 weeks and around 4 practices a week containing hit drills this could be 16 hours of not punishing your players with full contact.
Among many other benefits, the biggest in my mind would be QB training. A quarterback consistently training against 16 mph bodies could create difficulty. Keep in mind this also keeps your defensive backs off the field to rest, while the quarterback and wide receiver play pro-level catch. Doubling a receiver, or setting these dummies in specific spots to guard routes creates a setting where the accuracy and speed of the throw is vital.
In my mind I also picture these MVP’s being used for the offense. Quarterbacks targeting the dummy and attempting to hit the target dead on, rather than rely upon the wide receivers hands or skill to bail him out. Wide outs aren’t burnt from running 50+ routes to work on accuracy for the quarterbacks benefit either.
Obviously players will still be a part of hit drills, and running long routes and experiencing their usual routines will not cease. But excess punishment to the body is scaled back, and with it comes a possibly more agile, energetic, and healthier product on Sunday.