A report that 11 deflated footballs were linked to the New England Patriots prompted an investigation by the National Football League (NFL). In the report, claims were made that during the AFC championship game under-inflated balls were used.
In a statement, Troy Vincent, executive vice president for football operations with the NFL, confirmed that an investigation is ongoing but at this time the organization is waiting on findings. It was an ESPN report citing anonymous sources within the league that Vincent responded to. Reportedly, there were 11 allotted game footballs in the Patriots’ camp that were underinflated by as much as two pounds per square inch of air.
When questioned, ESPN had no idea how something like that could have happened. In a statement, Vincent said the probe would likely be finished by the end of this week. Considering this was an extremely tough football season off the field, the NFL has no desire to deal with a scandal about cheating that would be a huge disruption to Super Bowl week, especially with Super Bowl XLIX starting on February 1 when the Patriots face off with the Seattle Seahawks.
The Patriots took the AFC title after beating the Indianapolis Colts 45-7. When approached, a spokesperson for the Patriots said the organization is cooperating fully with the league during the investigation. The only comment made by a spokesperson for the Seahawks was that they would leave things up to the league.
While underinflated footballs may not seem like that big a deal, in reality they offer a competitive advantage, which ultimately means the game is compromised. When underinflated, the way a ball is gripped but also how it travels through the air changes.
According to NFL rules, both teams are provided with balls for each game when the offense takes the field. Prior to the start of the game, every ball is carefully inspected by an officiating crew. During the game, the only people authorized to be in possession of the ball are personnel who the home team provides and the players when the ball is in action.
Unfortunately, social media sites have not been very forgiving. Many comments about cheating have been posted although the NFL’s investigation is not even complete. In one Tweet, Darlus Butler, cornerback with the Colts posted, “So we get to play the game again or nah?” In another Tweet, Jerry Rice, Hall of Famer receiver said “11 of 12 balls underinflated…can anyone spell cheating!!!”
Aaron Rodgers with the Packers said on ESPN radio that he has a major issue with the way referees who inspect the balls prior to games takes air out of the footballs. He added that most of the time, the air is taken out, which creates a significant disadvantage for him as a quarterback, making it difficult to effectively throw a flat football.
Coach Bill Belichick with the Patriots said any questions would have to go to the NFL and that he is more than willing to cooperate. However, many people remember when in 2007, Belichick was fined $500,000 for having an assistant spy on defensive signals given by the New York Jets. Even so, many people in the league are standing behind the Patriots saying the team always tries to do things the right way.