The New England Patriots have been the subject of a NFL probe as a result of suspicion that the Patriots may have been using partially deflated balls during the AFC Championship game this past Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.
The suspicion arose when Colts linebacker, D’Qwell Jackson picked off a Tom Brady pass during the 2nd quarter of the game.
Jackson handed the ball to a Colts equipment manager on the sideline, and the equipment manager noticed that the ball was not fully inflated, and informed Colts’ head coach Chuck Pagano about the situation.
Officials became aware of the situation during halftime of the game, at which point the Patriots were already winning 17-7, and as a result of the situation the NFL is investigating to determine if there is any merit to the allegations of deflated footballs.
While it may not seem like a huge deal to the average football fan, a non-fully inflated football could be somewhat easier to grip, and as such provide a benefit to the team using them.
NFL guidelines have the game balls being prepared and inspected 2 hours and 15 minutes before game time at which point the officials ensure that the game balls meet the guidelines laid out in the NFL rule book. After the inspection 6 balls are given to each team in preparation for the game. The window between inspection and game time does leave enough time for potential tampering.
Despite the probe, the Patriots organization seems to be brushing off the allegations, with Tight End Rob Gronkowski posted to twitter, joking about the entire incident.
This level of tampering, if found to be true by the NFL, would usually just result in some type of fine levied against the organization, though because this playoff game there may be a new precedent set if the allegations are true.
Regardless of the allegations, the Patriots did go on to win the AFC Championship in decisive fashion, 45-7, and are set to meet the Seattle Seahawks in Phoenix, Arizona on February 1st in Super Bowl XLIX.