The New England Patriots are being investigated for possibly using deflated footballs during the AFC Championship on Sunday night in their win over the Indianapolis Colts.
A league source informed Bob Kravitz of WHTR of the investigation, and league spokesman Michael Signora later confirmed the report.
“I’m told at one point the officials took a ball out of play and weighed it,” Kravitz said. The Patriots would lose draft picks if the investigation concludes the team did use deflated footballs, Kravitz said, although some reports indicated that the team would only be fined. League rules stipulate a minimum $25,000 fine.
The question on many minds is–why would the team try illegally using deflated footballs?
The reason is simple–players can grip deflated footballs easier, even slightly deflated footballs. That means the ball is easier to throw, catch, and hold.
A source told NBC that several balls were removed from play for being under-inflated, but that’s it’s not completely odd for that to happen. It’s “not unheard of” for a ball to be removed from play, the source said.
How well footballs are inflated are checked before each game, and some of the balls are periodically tested during each game.
Former NFL official Jim Daopoulos told ESPN that officials inspect 12 footballs from each team several hours before each game, and mark the ones that meet the proper requirements. There’s also a second set, of six footballs, used specifically for kicking plays. And some of the balls are periodically tested during the game.
“Officials check balls as they go into the game, and if the ball doesn’t feel perfect, they can throw it out,” Daopoulos said. “There is always the possibility that balls can lose air due to the conditions.”
Tom Brady of the Patriots is the first player to speak out about the investigation, laughing at it during an interview with WEEI radio station.
“I think I’ve heard it all at this point … it’s ridiculous,” Brady said Monday morning. “I don’t even respond to stuff like this.”