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Nike NFL uniforms biggest impact is in unseen details and technology

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer
Most of the attention is on the style, but the technology in the new jerseys is vastly improved. (Getty Images)

NEW YORK -- It's the colors and the logos and the splashy lime green of Seattle's fancy new jerseys that drew all the attention when Nike unveiled the new NFL uniforms on Tuesday in New York.

But make no mistake: the new technology that Nike's employing for the jerseys is a big deal as well, and there are many subtle changes that fans won't see that players will appreciate.

"Our overall approach in just about anything we make is 'How can we make this lighter? How can we make it perform better?'" Nike Creative Director for Football Todd Van Horne told CBSSports.com on Tuesday.

To that extent, Nike made serious changes to the uniforms relative to their predecessors. One such change is an elimination of double-layered padding over the shoulders to make the pads lighter and more streamlined.

"Some of those materials that were two-layered -- like the existing over-the-shoulder panels were two layers and were non-stretch," Van Horne said. "So we thought if we could make it stretch material and make it a single layer and still have the same strength, why wouldn't we want to do that?"

Additionally, Nike wanted to create more unique padding on the uniforms -- fans will notice slightly-raised and indented thigh padding in addition to padding on the rear of the pants.

"It's just a level of slight protection so it's still flexible where you get the heel clips and/or from opposing players from their studs that can slow you," Van Horne said. "Nothing to slow you down."

Speed, flexibility, comfort and weight are all things that Nike's tried to emphasize in their products over the years. And it was clear from the players' reactions that they achieved precisely that with the 2012 jersey update.

"The uniform is great man," Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz said. "It's comfortable, it's light, it feels good to wear."

The change from a comfort perspective isn't just in the jersey and the pads, though. It goes all the way down to the socks. Van Horne said that the previous version of the sock was "just a tube" and that Nike's latest rendition is a gamechanger in terms of how it works for the athletes themselves.

"What we're proud about is the sock and the player reaction to the sock, how it fits different," Van Horne said. "They put it on and it cups them around the heel, how it has arch support, how it has an engineered bit. The existing tube sock was … just a tube. So I think the look and feel of what the sock is, it's still going to look good and players are responding well to it."
Nike also made sure that when it rains, players won't be slowed as much by water-soaked jerseys, giving the new uniforms "hydrophobic qualities" that will help resist inclement weather.

"We wanted to add some hydrophobic qualities to it so it's not absorbing water, so it beads up a little bit on the surface and doesn't change the fit and those kind of solutions kind of coming together happens behind the scenes," Van Horne said.

So Nike didn't just create new uniforms for all the NFL teams and their fans out there. They did do that, of course, and did a good job of maintaining tradition while also creating some interesting new styles.

But they also went out and made things a lot more comfortable for the guys who are actually playing the football on Sundays.

"They're amazing," Titans wideout Nate Washington said. "They time that Nike took out to make these jerseys as well as they made them. They're comfortable for the players, it's just amazing. Everything that they have different in here makes me feel totally different just sitting in the chair.

"The strength of the material, man, I'm excited about next year."
 
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