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Defensive head sets evened the playing field

Nov. 6, 2013
 
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At least the Packers didn't have to worry about the Detroit Lions stealing their hand signals after the Packers lost both their defensive players wearing helmets headsets on Thanksgiving Day. The NFL allowed the radio headsets on defense starting in 2008. Up to then, defensive coordinators had to go great lengths to prevent offensive coaches in the coaches box from stealing their hand signals and relaying the calls to their quarterback via their own headset. "It got towards the end where I spent as much time camouflaging signals and changing signals and using wrist bands as I was on the game plan," said Dom Capers, the Packers' defensive coordinator, "because everybody in the league would steal the defensive signals, and the opposing quarterback would have it through his headset. That’s why you used to see people with towels and all that stuff." Capers was referring to the practice of holding towels to block the opposing coaches upstairs from seeing  the hand signaled defensive calls. Detroit was in no position to steal the Packers' hand signals in the second half -- the Packers' two players with headsets, inside linebackers Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk, were out because of injuries -- because there were no hand signals from previous games to study. Capers said that when he was head coach of the Houston Texans he pushed hard at league meetings to allow the defense to have the headset for just that reason. The headsets shut down with 15 seconds left on the play clock, so as long as the defense gave the hand signals with more than 15 seconds left, there was a chance the offensive coaches could tell the quarterback what defense he'd be facing. No-huddle offenses had an especially big advantage because they were lined up and ready to run a play if the defense waited too long to hand-signal the call. "They can snap the ball, you have to get the defense out there," Capers said. "(The quarterback) has got (the call) in his headset, tremendous advantage. They had that down to a science. Get a guy likePpeyton Manning out there, a guy who knows his stuff, he’s out there giving you all (these calls), he knows the defense has to get it out there, he gets it in the headset, it’s a tremendous advantage."

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