The Equipment Manager
Professional football puts incredible physical stress on the players -- imagine what it would be like to be regularly hammered by a 230-pound object (like a linebacker) moving at terrific speeds! Without the protective equipment, the game would be nearly impossible -- injuries would wipe out the entire team immediately. Even with the equipment, the players have to be in incredible shape to handle the pounding they endure.

Atlanta Falcons equipment manager Brian Boigner

Equipment is an integral part of professional football, and an NFL team uses a huge amount of it! You see some of it at each game -- the balls, helmets, jerseys, shoes and so on. Much of it, however, is invisible -- the pads are a good example. There's a good bit of equipment that most people never think about, like the cleats that screw into the bottom of the players' shoes, or the sweats that the team wears during practice. Some of it is just plain unexpected, like the chemical hand-warmers, heated benches and chewing gum the team uses. And all of it has a multiplier of 53, the number of players on a team's roster during the normal season.

Inside the Atlanta Falcons equipment room

That multiplier is what changes the job of equipment management into an incredibly interesting logistical position for any team. For example, a typical NFL team consumes somewhere around 2,500 pairs of shoes in a single season! Someone has to keep track of everything or the team can't play.

Jackie Miles, equipment manager for the Panthers

The role of equipment manager has therefore become an extremely important one for every NFL team. The equipment manager has two big areas of responsibility:

  • Protecting the players - First and foremost, an equipment manager's job is to fit each player on the team with a customized array of equipment that will provide maximum protection against injury.

  • Managing the logistics - The equipment manager must handle the tons of equipment the team uses on a daily basis, keep all of it repaired and in stock and move it around for all of the road games.

These twin responsibilities have made equipment management both a science and an incredibly demanding role on any NFL team. For the Carolina Panthers, the job of equipment manager falls on the shoulders of Jackie Miles.

Miles' world is an extremely interesting one. It involves everything from knowing each player -- his preferences and individual injuries -- personally so that the right equipment provides maximum protection, to making sure that all of that equipment is on hand in the locker room.

The Panthers' locker room inside Ericsson Stadium

It also involves an unbelievable number of parts stored in bins, cabinets, racks and crates.

The equipment room contains millions of pieces all stored in bins, cabinets, boxes and racks.

Shoes are everywhere!

The customization of player equipment, like these chin straps, means that every piece comes in a huge array of styles and sizes.

The equipment room also includes cubby holes where players and staff can store stuff.

When you think of the equipment manager, you might just think of uniforms, pads, shoes and footballs, but the range is truly amazing -- it also includes stocking the gum the players chew!

Teams can go through an enormous amount of chewing gum.
Here we see approximately 7,200 sticks!

And several times each season, the whole show is packed into a tractor-trailer full of crates to take it on the road. When it gets there, the load is unpacked, then repacked to get back to its home and then unpacked again.

Loading the chartered plane from the team's tractor-trailer

As you can see, the role of equipment manager for an NFL team is one of the most intricate jobs around! Ultimately, however, it all comes down to protecting each player individually. In the following sections we will look at the different pieces of equipment that make protection possible.

Stock Up!
A regulation NFL football is 11 inches (28 cm) long and about 28 inches (71 cm) in circumference at its widest point. According to the NFL Rules Digest, "The home club shall have 36 balls for outdoor games and 24 for indoor games available for testing with a pressure gauge by the referee two hours prior to the starting time of the game to meet with League requirements. Twelve (12) new footballs, sealed in a special box and shipped by the manufacturer, will be opened in the officials� locker room two hours prior to the starting time of the game. These balls are to be specially marked with the letter "k" and used exclusively for the kicking game."