An investigation by the National Football League into whether the New England Patriots supplied footballs for the AFC Championship game that were deflated or under-inflated has found the allegations to be true. According to an ESPN report released on Wednesday morning, eleven out of the twelve footballs tested by the NFL during their investigation were found to be below the regulation inflation threshold. Anonymous league sources with knowledge of the matter said that the under-inflated balls were low by about 2 pounds per square inch of air.
The Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 to win the AFC title. The allegations of the balls not being inflated properly arose when a Patriots’ pass was intercepted by Colts’ player D’Qwell Jackson. Jackson noticed that the ball did not feel right and gave the ball to team equipment staff while voicing his suspicions. The NFL began looking into the issue because if the allegations were true, it would compromise the integrity of the game. On Tuesday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick deferred questions about the investigation, referring reporters to league officials instead.
Under-inflated footballs can give players a competitive advantage by changing the way it’s gripped by a player or the way it travels through the air. Under NFL rules, the balls that each team provides for use when its offense is on the field are to be inspected before the game by the officiating crew, after which they are given to team personnel to be handled throughout the game. The Patriots claim that they are cooperating with the league in its investigation. Coach Belichick stated that the team would “cooperate fully with whatever the league wants us to, whatever questions they ask.”
The NFL investigation is ongoing as how and when the balls became under-inflated is still being studied. Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president for football operations, said that he expects the investigation to be concluded by the end of the week, prior to the Super Bowl game featuring the Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks on February 1 in Glendale, Arizona. The NFL does not want the potential cheating scandal to disrupt Super Bowl week. A spokesman for the Seahawks said the team would defer to the league on the matter.