Ready, Set, Gone! The N.F.L.’s Disappearing Huddle.

But what is lost if one of the most recognizable features of football becomes a footnote to the game? Isn’t the huddle’s demonstrated sense of community part of football’s soul?

“The huddle has been romanticized, with good reason,” said Joe Theismann, a Washington Redskins quarterback for 12 seasons and the league’s most valuable player in 1983. “We did it so often. I know people wondered what was going on in there. Personally, I always found it fascinating that the crowd noise would be deafening but the huddle was usually a very, very quiet place.”

Roger Staubach, the fabled leader of the 1970s Dallas Cowboys and a Heisman Trophy winner, said the huddle was the best time to take the pulse of a team.

“As players in the huddle, you’re all alone in the middle of the field but together at the same time,” Staubach said. “You see who is hurt, who’s tired or who’s spitting mad. You can take that all in, which can be powerful.”

Michael Oriard, a former center with the Kansas City Chiefs, an all-American at Notre Dame and the author of books on football culture, called the huddle a sacred place, because it belonged to the players and not the coaches.

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