If you are as old as me, you’ll remember the early days of NFL Films with legendary TV announcers from Philadelphia John Facenda(maybe you don’t) the voice behind the films that incredibly brought the films to life. They represented the beginning of what would be the new way to watch football, to hear the grunts and groans along with hits made you feel like you were there. Now with players being Mic’d up it’s even more personal. Where & How are NFL Football players Miked Up?
Using a Lavalier Mic:
- Punch 2 small holes in the plastic of the pads
- Turn on the transmitter-test-sleep mode
- put in a plastic bag
- mounted to shoulder Pads-Low on Collar-on top of 1/4″ adhesive-backed foam
- Run mic cable around the collar to the back of pads
- secure with a zip tie
- Trim-Tape over
NFL Films owned by Ed Sabol and then his son Steve Sabol pioneered the use of in-game audio, and the league had long clipped a microphone to the umpire’s cap to capture the snap count. Before the 2010 season, though, the ump’s position on most plays shifted from the middle of the defense to well behind the offense for safety reasons.
Green Dot on Football Helmet
All audio/video equipment on the field is controlled by the NFL and says that one player from the Offense which is usually the Quarterback has a radio receiver or a One-Way radio to hear play calls from coaches off the field. This is the same for one Defense player for the same reason.
The coach on the sideline will motion to the player that a play is coming in. Along with those 2 players, the Offensive Center often has a mic taped on his shoulder pads or his back. This sound is sent straight to the TV networks.
This is why you can hear the Quarterback “count” on TV, or hear funny things like “Omahaaa Omaaahaaaa,” lastly, on several plays, a few “big-name” players will have mics taped on their shoulder pads. This is not played on the live broadcast, but the NFL uses these for post-game YouTube videos and DVDs.
This is big business for the NFL which is why they do it to bring the fan closer to the action of the game. The quarterback’s earpiece shuts off with 15 seconds left on the play clock or the ball is snapped whichever comes first. This is done by an NFL official and is not in the hands of the coaches.
The radio remains off until the play is dead and the play clock for the next play resumes. As such, coaches cannot continue to relay messages, defensive reads, or any other further information in those last remaining 15 seconds.
Only one player on offense (the QB) and one on defense (often the middle linebacker) are allowed earpieces in their helmets; the player that is designated or wired with audio equipment is designated with a green dot the size of a quarter on the back of their helmet. The green dot is on three helmets.
- The primary player gets two green dots.
- One of his game helmets and one on a backup helmet.
- The alternate has a green dot only on his backup helmet. The backup helmets are kept in a locked case behind the players’ benches. If needed, one of the officials will retrieve a helmet from the case. The teams (coaches and players) do not have access to that case.
Where On The Body Are Football Players Mic’d Up
After much experimentation and during a bunch of exhibition games, NFL officials decided to put a microphone on the back of the pads of two players for each team either the first- and second-string centers or both starting guards. NFL Engineers working in the booth turn on 1 microphone just as the Offence breaks the huddle.
Then they shut it down as the ball is snapped. The audio is mixed is sent to the TV truck where the network mixes it with the crowd noise. In other words, it was kinda fabricated. Technology improves every year as stereo sound became surround sound and could direct the sound all around the image on the TV and make it even more realistic almost like being there. The audio now is dependent even more so as to be part of the experience.
Some Quarterbacks use the audio better than others remember Peyton Manning calling out “Omaha Kill Kill” it sounded awesome like you were sitting in front of him. The sounds still need to be captured and mixed together just like Sound Engineers do in a Recording Studio. Except the Recording Studio could be Green Bay’s Lambeau Field and 20 below. NFL also uses microphones on other players that are standing on the sideline.
The Sound is mixed and then added to the TV audio. Some Quarterbacks have microphones in their helmets. And it isn’t just quarterbacks, there is one, or multiple, members of the defense that have the sticker on their helmets. It is rare to see any other offensive player with the sticker because it is mainly the quarterback that runs the show. The sticker is to show the referees who have a microphone in their helmets.
NFL Headset Rules
The main reason for the microphones is instant communication between players coach to pillbox and back again. It’s there really for up-tempo offense so the quarterback or defensive captain doesn’t have to keep running off the field every time the play is dead or offensive/defensive plays in bulk (though for a no-huddle, this is still the case).
Most every team in the NFL has 1 player on the offense and defense with a communication device in their helmet, and per NFL rules, that helmet has to have about a quarter-sized, round, green, sticker on the back of it, to signify that is the helmet with the radio.
But in accordance with the Laws of the NFL Official Rulebook (Rule 5, section 3, article 3 specifies the use of speakers in helmets.) no mic is allowed in a Players Helmet. The microphones are attached to the shoulder pads and are quite small. Small enough to be insignificant.
However, the players also have to wear a battery pack to support the mic which has been controversial in the past. It’s done a few hours before the game and most players forget that they have it on. Which can lead to some problems.
- Using an Omnidirectional Wireless Lavalier Microphone
- Mount on the Front Shoulder Pads-Low on the Collar
- Point the Mic Head downward
- Used 1/4″ adhesive-backed neoprene foam held in place with Gorilla Tape that works well in cold and rain
- Mic cable is routed around the collar to the back of the pads. (held in place with gorilla tape and carefully so no way to be snagged/pulled).
- Mic transmitter is powered on and tested, then put in “sleep” mode to save battery
- Put the transmitter into a plastic bag or wrap it in saran wrap if it’s raining or snowing.
- Punch 2 small holes in the plastic pads (NOT padding) with an awl, and make sure they are no other holes or edges within 1″ of the hole (weakens the pads/attachment points). These holes are a tad wider apart than the width of the transmitter, and located on the left or right back side near the bottom of the pads or up near the shoulder.
- Place a small aluminum or similarly rigid plate over the transmitter to protect the antenna and mic connections.
- Use a zip tie and thread through holes and use it to secure the transmitter to the pads. Trim off the extra bit of zip tie and then cover the whole deal in more of the adhesive-backed neoprene foam.
Finally, tape down all sides of the foam-padded pack and hand it over to the team’s equipment person so they can put the jersey on. Many players don’t even notice the rig, but I think they all need to be told they are Mic’d.
A top-of-line mic that the NFL uses is called a Sanken COS-11D Omni Lavalier for Lectrosonics SM Transmitters, Black w/Furry Mount & Long Vampire Clip, or a Countryman B6W4FF05LAL B6 Omnidirectional Wireless Lavalier Microphone for Audio Limited Transmitters The Sanken COS-11D Miniature Lavalier Microphone delivers the audio performance that meets the standards of digital wireless microphone transmitters. The COS-11D addresses the noise issues associated with digital in order to ensure a pristine audio signal.
The wide frequency response ensures accurate, transparent audio reproduction and its omnidirectional polar pattern provide a generous pickup area while minimizing feedback and off-axis noise. An improved water-resistant mesh screen protects against humidity, perspiration, makeup, bad weather, etc. The miniature profile of the lavalier makes it an ideal solution for professional theater, video recording, film, and broadcast applications.
The Vclip vampire clip was created exclusively for use with all models of the Sanken COS 11 lavalier microphone. Facilitates quick mounting of the mic to many clothing materials without sacrificing sound quality. The mic capsule slides into the Vclip for a snug fit. The 4SFM Furry mount quickly mounts your COS 11 to clothing or skin. It reduces noise in windy conditions and is easy to conceal.
Sanken COS-11D Omni Lavalier for Lectrosonics SM Transmitters, Black w/Furry Mount & Long Vampire Clip This unique plug-on transmitter design will ideally match any microphone or line-level source via a standard XLR connector. Phantom power is selectable at 5, 15, and 48 volts, or can be turned off for use with dynamic microphones and line-level signal sources.
The design includes a wide tuning range of up to 76 MHz, with tuning steps in increments of 100 kHz or 25 kHz for up to 3072 frequencies. The tuning range covers three standard 25.6 MHz Lectrosonics frequency blocks.
Each of the standard blocks includes 256 different pilot tone frequencies for compatibility with all Digital Hybrid Wireless receivers. DSP compatibility modes are also included to work with legacy Lectrosonics analog wireless microphone receivers and IFB receivers, as well as some receivers from other manufacturers.
- Accepts microphone or line-level signals
- Selectable 5, 15, and 48-volt phantom power
- Selectable 50/100 mW output power
- Adjustable low-frequency roll-off
- Powered by two AA batteries
- A USB port for firmware updates
- IR (infrared) port for fast setup
- Solid machined aluminum housing
- 76 MHz tuning range in 100 kHz or 25 kHz steps for up to 3072 frequencies
Technology in Football
During the Super Bowl nine wireless microphones are, during the regular season, NFL Films deploys four wires per week, to be distributed among the games. If it’s an important game during the season, NFL Films will hand out five or six microphones.
The number of cameras sent by NFL Films to record games roughly follows this pattern, too. According to Aaron Rogers of the Green Bay Packers, it used to be that only the Offense wore a headset to hear incoming plays from the coaches but now both Guards on the Defense are miked and listening in on the Quarterback calling plays. He feels it’s too much information and a distraction wearing one. He blames an injury on his teammate Randall Cobb a few years back on the Mic.
Rodgers blames Packers’ WR Randall Cobb’s punctured lung on the technology.
“Randall Cobb had a serious injury last year in a playoff game and I believe, as I think he would as well and the team, that that was caused by him being mic’d up,” Rodgers said. “Because he fell on his mic pack and he had an injury to his insides that kept him out of the game and probably would have kept him out of the rest of the playoffs. The puncture spot, or the injury spot, was directly adjacent to his mic pack.
Even if there is a remote chance that a player’s safety is in jeopardy players like Rogers think that the NFL should revisit it and review its future of Football. When a Player is “mic’d up” during a game, there is no edit during the game but the audio is only made available to broadcast networks and NFL Films who then edit it as they see fit. They’re given time to edit out anything they might find offensive and pick and choose what audio makes it to the broadcast.
Specific players are picked for their personalities and past experience. This doesn’t mean that things can’t be picked up reflecting the pressures of the game and things are said that are not edited. Other sports teams have also been experimenting with Mic’d up NBA and Mic’d up NHL and things are catching on.
So there can be some backlash that happens and emotional things said. Numerous times in the past few seasons Players during or after a game have said things that they wish they haven’t and it has gone back to haunt them. There are objections to the Mic’d Up program that maybe some technology needs to stay out of the game and might be infringing on the player’s privacy. I wonder what Ed Sabol would have to say about that!
Mikingdesign.com *Before we end, I had a little question about the grammar involved in the use of the word Mic/Miked. So I did what most people do. I Googled it. I have written a lot of articles for MikingDesign.com on using the words associated with the word Mic as a noun or a verb.
Here’s what I found. Both mike and mic commonly appear as shortened forms of microphone, but mike is the accepted spelling in most dictionaries. Mic presents difficulties because it looks like it should be pronounced mick and because it produces the problematic participles mixed and micing.
Miked and mic work better. Of course, however, the word is spelled, it is a verb mainly in the phrase mic/mike up, meaning to put a mic on someone or something. Thank goodness we cleared that up. I don’t have to check the spelling on the whole website.