January 24, 2015

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The NFL will test having game officials use tablets for video reviews in Sunday's Pro Bowl.

Coaches and players for the first time have been using the Microsoft Surface tablets on the sidelines all season to look at photos of previous plays.

Having the referee look at replays to determine if calls were correct could lead to eliminating the official going ''under the hood'' for reviews.

''The test in the Pro Bowl gives us the opportunity to see the practicality of the technology in game-time situations, make adjustments or improvements where necessary, and also gauge the usefulness of it to the officials,'' Troy Vincent, the NFL's football operations chief, said Saturday. ''Certainly, we believe it is an enhancement that we would like to integrate in the future.''

An NFL staffer will wear a backpack containing wireless radios, and will hold a Surface Pro 3 tablet and headphones during the game.

When a video review is needed, that staffer will hold the tablet and referee John Parry will don the headphones. It is hoped this will speed up the entire process.

If it works well Sunday, this review method won't be a one-off.

''Preseason testing of this technology is very likely,'' Vincent added. ''The process for regular-season use would involve a review and approval by the competition committee.''

The powerful competition committee meets in February to present recommendations and proposals to the 32 owners in March at league meetings in Phoenix.

The league also will debut use of real-time video on the tablets for coaches and players to review during the Pro Bowl.

Vincent believes the use of in-game video rather than photos still could make the game more competitive.

''The sideline of the future may also see technology that tracks a player's health during the game, his recovery time, and other particulars that may make the game safer,'' he said. ''As technology advances, so will the ability of our coaches, players and officials to adapt and adopt new uses.

''The future of the sideline is very exciting and promising.''

Microsoft signed a five-year, $400 million deal with the NFL in 2013, and has quickly brought enhanced technology to the field and sidelines.

''We're very pleased with the incredibly positive feedback we've received from players, coaches, video directors, and league personnel on their use of the Microsoft Surface tablets and the Surface sideline viewing system in-game this year,'' said James Bernstrom, director of product marketing at Microsoft.

The Pro Bowl is ''yet another way we're working with the NFL to utilize Microsoft technology to help make teams more productive on the sidelines and the game more competitive.''

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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