In the NFL teams are able to have one player on the field with a speaker in their helmet. On offense this player is going to be the quarterback and on defense this player is going to be the middle linebacker.
The players who have a speaker built into their helmets are going to have a small green sticker applied to their helmets.
These players are only going to be able to hear what the coaching staff is communicating to them. The speakers in NFL players’ helmets do not allow them to talk with the coaching staff.
Instead, the speakers are only built one way which allows the coaching staff to talk to them but there is no communication back.
Additionally, the audio in these speakers will cut out when the play clock reaches fifteen seconds.
“The communication begins once a game official has signalled a down to be over and is cut off when the play clock reaches 15 seconds
or the ball is snapped, whichever occurs first.”
This means coaches have the time from the start of the play clock down to fifteen seconds to communicate with their quarterback or middle linebacker.
If they were allowed to communicate later into the play the coaching staff would be able to read the defense and communicate that to their quarterback.
This is seen as unfair by many which is why there is a time limit on the in-helmet speakers.
Other rules regarding speakers in NFL helmets
Each team has the option of having three quarterbacks’ helmets with built-in speakers. They may also have three helmets of defensive players with built-in speakers.
If the offense chooses they may also allow a non-quarterback player to have a radio instead. In this case, this player must have two helmets, one with a speaker and one without.
There may only be one player on the field with a speaker in their helmet. If a backup player comes onto the defense with a radio in his helmet he must announce it to the umpire.
If the starting middle linebacker leaves the game and re-enters with a radio in his helmet he must again report it to the umpire.
This helps the refs keep track of which players are using radios.
Additionally, teams are able to use a speaker in the helmet of one special teams player.
What do coaches say through NFL Helmet radios?
Now that you know the rules regarding speakers in helmets in the NFL you may be wondering what sort of things are said. Below we will cover some of the main uses of speakers in football helmets.
The main way that speakers are used in NFL helmets is to play call. Both the quarterback and the middle linebacker are the players that are going to communicate plays to their teammates.
First, the play call will come in through the speaker in the player’s helmet. Once this information is received the player will communicate the play to the other players on the field.
Prior to the use of speakers in helmets, substitutions were the main way in which playcalling was done. On each play, one player would switch with another on the bench and the player from the bench would bring the play with them.
Speaking directly to a player through his helmet is a much more effective method which is why it is done by all NFL teams today.
Mental coaching is another way a coaching staff can get some use out of these in helmet radios.
That being said conversations had in these helmets are never released so we cannot know for sure what is being said.
Though I believe it is safe to say that the coaches will offer some words of encouragement from time to time.
When playing with a young quarterback simple advice to calm down and go through your progressions can go a long way.
On top of calling plays, the speakers in NFL helmets may also assist in calling audibles.
Audibles in football are play changes that are done on the field by yelling audible cues to your teammates.
In most cases, audibles are going to be done based on what the quarterback is seeing from the defense. If he sees a weakness he may change the play to take advantage.
Or if he sees a defense that will stop his play call he may change the play in order to avoid a negative play.
If the coaching staff is able to read the defense before the 15-second mark on the play clock then they will be able to relay audibles to the quarterback.
It’s hard to say how often this happens in the NFL but these coaches have certainly seen a defense and quickly told their quarterback to make a change to the play call.