Seemingly generating the type of buzz only matched by the NFL schedule release (which is coming up later in April), Nike made a splash Tuesday when they unveiled new uniforms for all 32 NFL clubs.
While customizing all 32 NFL team jerseys Nike still had to follow NFL guidelines, which is why you won't notice a lot of drastic changes in uniform design from team-to-team.
"The Cincinnati Bengals have chosen to take full innovation in the Nike Elite 51 football uniform," Nike wrote on its Web site. "The Bengals design aesthetic will stay true to years past while updating the color-blocking in the neckline in order to accommodate the Flywire technology to reduce weight and provide a lockdown fit over the pads. Designed and engineered from the inside out, the new uniform focuses on creating a system where the baselayer, padding, jersey and pant work in concert. A few of the new innovations include increasing sleeve articulation for better range of motion and integrating new four-way stretch fabrication to provide a streamlined shrink-wrap fit."
The primary differences in the Nike uniform compared to the previous Reebok version are the type of fabric used and how the jersey is sewn together. Nike's Speed Machine fabric is stitched together in 18-20 pieces as opposed to 8-10 pieces that made up the Reebok jersey, according to Bengals equipment manager Jeff Brickner.
"What Nike has done here is create these different sew lines, and these sew lines are designed to make it a tighter fit," Brickner said. "If you look closely at these jerseys you can see all the lines that they've sown. Those lines reinforce the actual jersey to create that tight fit, and it creates a stretch within this jersey.
"The players still want to be able to move around, so even though it's still skin tight they feel like they have this T-shirt on, and that's what they want. If it's one piece and it's tight, it's like a straight jacket and they can't move. You always want to have full range of motion by putting your arms up and your (shoulder) pads don't choke you out. That's why you have all those pieces that form the jersey."
There are currently four different cuts for the jersey - one each for the quarterbacks, defensive linemen, offensive linemen and the skill players.
"The skill-cut jersey has a little extra room in the sleeve," Brickner said. "The other ones have bigger room in the arms. It's nice and high and tight in the armpit so (opposing players) can't grab."
Besides the more visible sew lines, the other visual differences in the new Bengals jersey include slightly different colors and smaller numbers.
"With that jersey being so much tighter, the actual numbers may be a quarter-inch smaller on the front and maybe a half-inch smaller on the back because of the tighter fit," Brickner said. "If that jersey is hanging in a locker by itself it may look like a medium to large T-shirt.
"The color shade may be a little different but it's just Nike's color pantone. It has a little more of a duller finish but that's Nike's trademark of the Nike jersey."
Additional features of the new Bengals jersey according to Nike include:
» LIGHTER - The Nike jersey and pant, wet or dry are lighter than previous versions
» FLYWIRE TECHNOLOGY - Eliminates layers, reduces weight, and provides lockdown fit
» ZONED MESH VENTILATION – Provides cooling zones for optimal thermoregulation
» ZONED STRENGTH - High tenacity, stretch material, for lightweight lockdown strength.
» CUT FOR MOBILITY – Four-way stretch, hydrophobic materials enable range of motion wet or dry.
» STRETCH TWILL NUMBERS – Four-way stretch even on numbering system
» CUSTOMIZABLE BASELAYER PADDING – Nike Pro Combat Hyperstrong baselayer with integrated lightweight, Deflex padding offering customizable flexible protection.
» DEFLEX PADDING - Lightweight, flexible impact protection integrated into top "hit zone" areas
» ALUMINUM D-RING BELT - Aircraft-grade aluminum D-ring belt reduces weight.
In a review on the new Nike versions for all 32 teams, Forbes.com/Bleacher Report rated the Bengals among teams getting an "A" grade.
"The Bengals have always had a look ahead of their time," the review said, "dating back to the (1981) introduction of stripes on their helmets. The dark, aerodynamic design meshes perfectly with the iconic helmet."
The Bengals Pro Shop will begin taking pre-orders for the new Nike jerseys on April 15. The Pro Shop will then have exclusive 24-hour rights to begin shipping all pre-orders and selling the jerseys in person at Paul Brown Stadium on April 26. The replica jersey in black will be available in Men's, Women's and Youth sizes. The replica jersey in white will be available in Men's sizes only. The jersey will be available at other retail locations beginning April 27.
Authentic jerseys (limited players) will be available in black at a later date in May, and orange jerseys (varying styles) in July.