It isn't often you hear an NFL player talk about functionality and mobility and breatheability when describing their uniform.
But those are the words St. Louis Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan repeated frequently Tuesday as 32 NFL players showed off the new uniforms unveiled by Nike as they officially became the league's uniform providers for at least the next five years.
"It is everything a player could want in a jersey," Finnegan said. "The older jerseys limited you. I can feel the difference just walking around. They are state of the art."
The uniform change has been two years in the making and, except for the total redesign done by the Seattle Seahawks and modeled by safety Kam Chancellor, the changes are in the way the uniforms are made and how they fit.
Added Finnegan, "They have the mobility and breatheability needed for a defensive back."
Dubbed the Nike Elite 51, the company's designers spoke to numerous players, including Rams running back Steven Jackson, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis and Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, to find out what they want in a uniform.
Said Todd Van Horne, Nike's creative director for football and baseball, "We wanted to understand performance needs of the players."
They were told players want what they wear to be as lightweight as possible. Added Van Horne, "They want a lockdown fit but with full range of motion."
Even the belt buckle on the pants has been changed from metal to aluminum. Overall, the uniform is said to be eight percent lighter than before.
Nike also worked on what the players wear under their uniform and developed different apparel for extremely hot or cold temperatures.
Said commissioner Roger Goodell, "The players love them. They don't want to take them off." After the event, he jokingly told The Sports Xchange, "I wouldn't be surprised if they sleep in them."
When Finnegan was told of the commissioner's comment, he laughed and said, "I think they're great."
Finnegan was also the only player from the 32 present that was new to his team. On the full-scale models on display in the areas where interviews were conducted, the Rams' jersey was Jackson's No. 39.
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Finnegan was fine with that. "It's unusual that I'm a new player here, but it's an honor to represent the Rams," he said. "It's great being with coach (Jeff) Fisher again, and I look forward to having Steven and everyone else as my new teammates."
No changes here: Interestingly, five teams elected not to incorporate the changes into their uniforms. Some didn't change anything; others changed only certain aspects. The new uniforms don't have zippers or laces at the top of the pants. The five teams - Carolina, Dallas, Green Bay, Oakland and Philadelphia - had different variations of ties and the Packers has a zipper. None have the aluminum buckle.
Roll call: Players present for the unveiling were Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Atlanta guard Justin Blalock, Baltimore running back Ray Rice, Buffalo safety George Wilson, Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams, Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher, Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton, Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden, Dallas tight end Jason Witten, Denver cornerback Champ Bailey, Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Green Bay right end Jermichael Finley, Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson, Indianapolis defensive end Robert Mathis, Jacksonville cornerback Rashean Mathis, Kansas City wide receiver Dwayne Bowe.
Miami linebacker Karlos Dansby, Minnesota wide receiver Percy Harvin, New England wide receiver Wes Welker, New Orleans running back Pierre Thomas, New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, New York Jets running back Shonn Greene, Oakland running back Darren McFadden, Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, St. Louis cornerback Cortland Finnegan, San Diego running back Ryan Mathews, San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith, Seattle safety Kam Chancellor, Tampa Bay running back LeGarrette Blount, Tennessee wide receiver Nate Washington, and Washington linebacker Brian Orakpo.
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