Evolution not revolution for Nike's new NFL uniforms… unless you're a Seahawk
17:49 GMT, 8 April 2012
The NFL and Nike launched their five-year partnership in New York this week, unveiling lighter, tighter and stronger uniforms for all 32 franchises.
In line with the NFL’s traditionally conservative nature, the Oregon-based sports equipment manufacturer engineered from the inside-out, with a focus on innovation and performance.
And in the main, the groundbreaking aesthetic redesigns seen in college football were not on show at the glittering Brooklyn bow.
Grand designs: Nike unveiled their new uniforms for the 2012 NFL season at a football-themed fashion show in Brooklyn
Indeed, five teams – the Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers and the Oakland Raiders – declined Nike’s invitation of a radical overhaul.
But in poker terms the Seattle Seahawks went all-in, pushing for a head-to-toe revamp. The move is unique in a league that only allows changes once every five years, and other teams are tipped to follow their lead.
‘The Seahawks have crazy uniforms,’ purred Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley.
‘Hopefully Green Bay decides to switch it up and go with the look of 2012. If you look good, you play good. If you play good, you get paid good. The Seahawks have the best uniform out there right now.’
New look: Todd van Horne (left), Nike's global creative director, and Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor at the launch
Moving away from the traditional royal blue to a darker shade, the uniform also features new-look helmets, the addition of neon green and a ‘feather pattern graphic’ as a nod to the Native American heritage of the Pacific Northwest.
With 12 feathers on both pants and jerseys and the No 12 sewn in to the jersey in homage to Seattle fans – the 12th man.
On his first visit to New York, birthday boy Kam Chancellor was the first to model the new duds.
‘This uniform is especially made for the 12th man, thinking all about the fans. All the players really liked them,’ the 24-year-old safety said. ‘These uniforms are lighter. The shoes. The socks. I can reach above my head without a problem, too.’
Under lights: Athletes sport the Nike Elite 51 Uniform
The deal is the first time Nike have exclusive rights to all teams, marking the conclusion of the NFL’s previous 10-year agreement with Reebok.
It is estimated the adidas AG-owned brand will lose between $200-250million-a-year, and the move came as a relief to some.
‘It’s long overdue,’ said Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin. ‘A lot of players weren’t satisfied.’
Nike’s decision to focus on performance for the Elite 51 range went down well with athletes, who praised the lower weight – which Nike CEO Mark Parker estimated between 20-30 per cent – greater flexibility and breathability.
The centre of attention: Super Bowl winner Victor Cruz was mobbed by local and international media in New York
Victor Cruz of the New York Giants said the apparel would help make him tougher to tackle. ‘That's the biggest thing for me: making sure that I'm sleek and I'm fast and I can't be grabbed or held.’
Harvin was on the same page. ‘The collar has Nylon in it and that for me is one of the big things. It kind of keeps it from sticking out or flapping over. That’s how I was being tackled a lot last year, so defenders won’t be able to snag it no more. ‘
‘The socks are way better,’ he continued. ‘They won’t slide down. They’re more comfortable.’
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hailed the lightweight new material, saying: ‘It is not the old mesh, it breathes really well.’
‘Usually it takes time to break in pants and they seem like they’re pretty flexible,’ said Wes Welker of the New England Patriots.
A new era: The swoosh replaces Reebok's logo on the new NFL uniforms
Meanwhile, Miami Dolphins linebacker Karlos Dansby praised the 22 per cent cooler base layer.
‘The ventilation alone is going to be huge in South Florida with the humidity and the heat, so the form fitting pants give us a lot of range in motion and makes plays around our body with the jersey. It’s perfect.’
The new ‘logo lock up ‘gloves are said to improve grip, while colour-coordinated shoes – for players who opt to wear them – are available for the first time.
‘The shoes are super light,’ Dansby added. ‘And these are size 16. These are the lightest cleats I ever put my feet in. It’s awesome.’
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell added his praise, 'I love them,' he said. ‘I love them, first, because it starts with the performance part of them. Talking to the players, they don't want to take them off. They love 'em.’
While Nike are unable to perform another wholesale makeover until 2017, Goodell said teams are likely to push the boundaries: ‘What we tried to do is innovate. Even if the look doesn’t change, there’s innovation. You saw it with the Seahawks: there will be more to come.’
Individual quirks specific to franchises are included in the current range. The Panthers have the words ‘Keep Pounding’ stitched on their collars as tribute to the late linebacker and coach Sam Mills, who lost his battle with cancer in 2005. And the Chicago Bears have enlarged GSH initials on their jerseys to honour founder George S Halas.
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‘Our brief was to provide players with everything they need and nothing more. We blended cutting edge technology and fabrications with more than 40 years of knowledge, craft and insight into the game,’ said Nike’s Design Director for Football, Todd van Horne. ‘We worked closely with the teams, listening to their needs and delivering the best options to serve those athletes.’
Kris Aman, vice president and general manager of men's athletic training at Nike, added: ‘The energy you feel in here is all about a celebration. This is just the beginning,’ Aman said. ‘People in the NFL and people here at Nike are fans. We are here showing our passion for the game.’
Jerseys are available from April 26, the first day of the upcoming season’s draft weekend. Nike replica jerseys will be on sale for $99, while the limited edition jersey – featuring Flywire technology and ventilation areas – is priced at $135. The elite version, which adds water-repelling fabric, will be on the market for $250.