When the NFL kicks off its season Thursday, it will do so with high-tech sensors in the players' shoulder pads.
When the NFL kicks off its season Thursday, it will do so with high-tech sensors in the players' shoulder pads. - 
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When the NFL’s 2015 season kicks off Thursday with the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers, every player will be tagged with two quarter-sized RFID chips on their shoulder pads.

The idea? Track how fast players run, or how much distance they've covered. The NFL believes these next-generation statistics will enhance the sport.

One top goal behind this technology is to bring NFL action closer to your living room couch, making the game more dynamic through data, says Eric Petrosinelli, general manager of Zebra Sports, the company behind this new technology and that is partnering with the league.

“Really, the statistics have not changed much in the last 20 years,” he says. “Now, you are talking about who had the fastest run of the game, or who covered the most distance.”

Stats collected from the sensors also create a more in-depth experience for the fans.

MIT’s Ben Shields says all the new stats certainly have a wow factor, but “data has to help solve a particular challenge, and at the end of the day, for a lot of football fans, is how can I win my fantasy football league and how can my team do better on Sundays?”

Shields says perhaps the best use of the new technology is in player performance. He says teams, and their medical staffs, can monitor how a player recovers from injury or manages pain — a potent tool given teams’ financial investment in their personnel. 

Follow Dan Gorenstein at @dmgorenstein