NFL has found that 11 of the Patriots footballs used in Sunday’s AFC title game were under-inflated by 2 lbs each, per league sources.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) January 21, 2015
The problem, of course, is if the Patriots intentionally released air from the game balls during their 45–7 demolition of the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. “We are not commenting at this time,” Greg Aiello, the NFL’s senior vice president of communications, told ESPN. Almost immediately after the game came murmurs that the NFL was looking into whether the Pats had let some of the air out of the balls that Tom Brady used during the game. Softer balls are easier to grip when the conditions are wet, potentially giving the team that uses them an advantage.
Here’s what ESPN had to say earlier this week about NFL rules on game balls:
NFL rules stipulate that footballs must be inflated between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch and weigh between 14 and 15 ounces. Former NFL official Jim Daopoulos, in an interview with ESPN on Monday morning, explained the process in which footballs are managed. Two hours and 15 minutes before each game, officials inspect 12 footballs from each team and put a mark on them to indicate they meet the proper requirements and are good for usage. Then those footballs are given to the ball attendant. There also is a second set of six footballs, used specifically for the kicking game, that are marked appropriately and remain in the possession of officials at all times… The NFL's game operations manual states: "Once the balls have left the locker room, no one, including players, equipment managers, ball boys, and coaches, is allowed to alter the footballs in any way. If any individual alters the footballs, or if a non-approved ball is used in the game, the person responsible and, if appropriate, the head coach or other club personnel will be subject to discipline, including but not limited to, a fine of $25,000."