Football Robots Start Practicing with 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers are using three Mobile Virtual Player (MVP) robots in practice for both offensive and defensive drills to cut down on player injuries.

The San Francisco 49ers have become the fifth NFL team to use the Mobile Virtual Player (MVP) robot tackling dummy in practices.

The 49ers join the Oakland Raiders, Los Angeles Rams, Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers as the NFL teams using the football robots to reduce the number of hits and injuries players take during practice.

The 49ers are using three MVP robot tackling dummies for both offensive and defensive drills. Each MVP robot costs about $8,000, weighs up to 180 pounds and can cover 40 yards in five seconds flat thanks to the wheels on its base.

“It’s a huge step for everybody,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly told the San Jose Mercury News. “You want to get a lot accomplished in training sessions, but you also want to do it in a safe environment.”

Quinn Connell, a former engineering student at Dartmouth College, developed the MVP robot to reduce the number of football-related concussions going forward. Dartmouth football coach Buddy Teevens banned tackling in practice, saying there were too many useless injuries taking place on player-on-player contact. No Dartmouth Football player will ever tackle another Dartmouth Football player again, thanks to the MVP robot.

“The longer our coaches put their heads together, there are a lot of different things you can use them for,” Kelly said of the MVPs. “Bascially, we do a lot of work with sleds and dummies, but now you have a sled/dummy that can move. I don’t think there’s a limitation from where we are going to go from that standpoint.”

Here’s video of the Steelers practicing with the MVP robots.

About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
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