The NFL will have a different tailor next season. It remains to be seen whether players will look radically different in their new Nike threads.
There has been speculation, since Nike wrestled the role of uniform provider away from Reebok more than a year ago, that NFL teams will resemble something out of a bizarre video game. Or the other-world look of the Oregon Ducks.
Nike brand president Charlie Denson fueled that expectation in an interview with CNBC soon after the five-year deal with the NFL was announced in late 2010, saying, “We plan on changing the NFL jersey dramatically just like we’ve done with the college programs.”
An NFL spokesman downplayed that notion this week and pointed out that teams and the league determine their logos and distinctive markings, not Nike.
“We anticipate new uniform technology (i.e., performance-driven, lighter materials). That’s what Nike’s [Charlie] Denson was referring to in his interview in 2010 regarding changes,” Brian McCarthy, the NFL’s director of communications, told NBC’s ProFootballTalk on Monday.
Reached on Tuesday, McCarthy declined comment on whether the league will have a significantly different appearance in Nike uniforms or reveal notable changes in the works.
The Dolphins are not planning changes to their logo or uniforms for 2012, team President Mike Dee said. He said teams have been instructed to not disclose specifics of the Nike gear until after the Super Bowl, the last NFL game in Reebok attire.
Nike continues to stoke anticipation with a promotional video, “Nike Football Epic Transformation” narrated by Michael Irvin, who says dramatically, “Friday nights and Saturday afternoons don’t lie, change is good. And we’re bringing all the change we’ve got to Sundays.”
The NFL’s Nike jerseys will be unveiled in April. The draft could be the coming out party for Nike’s new line.
The conservative nature of the NFL suggests the change will not be revolutionary. Nike clearly wants to put its stamp on the look of the league, as it has on college football in recent years.
"We're going to be aggressive," Denson said in another CNBC interview last summer. "Some teams are willing to go further than others."
Iconic teams such as the Packers, Steelers, Giants, Raiders and Cowboys would seem unwilling to budge from traditional looks.
However, there may be teams ready for a major brand overhaul as the Broncos underwent in 1997 with their logo, color scheme and uniform styling that still sets them apart from the rest of the league – Nike was the league’s uniform vendor at that time. The Broncos have already received approval to switch their home jerseys from dark blue to burnt orange for 2012.
The Seahawks were the first team to hold discussions with Nike. Team president Peter McLoughlin said last summer that the Seahawks will be making innovative uniform changes for 2012.
There has also been speculation that players will be more inclined to change numbers for 2012 once they no longer have to reimburse Reebok for unsold jersey inventory. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said on Twitter that he would like to switch from No. 28 to 21 or 23.
McCarthy said wholesale number changes are unlikely, and that players still will have to petition to do so.
Reggie Bush, who wore 25 in New Orleans, took 22 when he came to the Dolphins. Soon after he tweeted, “I'm gonna keep 22. I think it represents change! Change can be a good thing!”
After having his best season as a pro, there would seem to be little reason to change back.
Still, any impending change these days brings wild speculation on the Web, as evidenced by the Marlins’ recent redesign. Soon after Nike won the NFL contract, a set of supposed “leaked” NFL uniforms for 2012 began circulating. It turned out to be one fan’s creative vision, not authentic.
The fan’s Nike fakes can be viewed in the following YouTube video.