After Sunday's AFC Championship game, reports indicated the NFL was looking into the possibility that the New England Patriots were using under-inflated footballs during their 45-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. According to an ESPN reports from Chris Mortensen, the league has found that 11 of the 12 gameballs used by the Patriots were significantly less inflated than NFL rules require.
The NFL stipulates that all balls be inflated to between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per squar inch. In this case, the league's findings indicate that the Patriots were using footballs that were under-inflated by 2 pounds per square inch each, according to Mortensen's report.
Each team provides 12 footballs for their offense to use each game. The footballs are inspected by the referee 2 hours and 15 minutes before kickoff, then are given to the team of attendants who handle the balls throughout the game. The attendents are provided by the home team, in this case the Patriots.
The league is said to still be investigating how the balls were altered, and if it happened after the referee inspection.
During the game, one Patriots ball was removed from play. The Colts were said to notice the ball did not feel right after a second quarter D'Qwell Jackson interception of Tom Brady, according to a report earlier this week from Newsday. Jackson then gave the ball to Colts equipment managers, who then told Colts head coach Chuck Pagano. Indianapolis general manager Ryan Grigson was informed in the press box and he notified NFL Director of Football operations Mike Kensil. Kensil then told the referees of the complaint at halftime.
Under-inflating the balls would allow a quarterback and receivers to grip the ball better, especially in cold and wet weather, as it was in Foxboro on Sunday. It could also allow the ball to fly better through the rain.
The Patriots are said to be fully cooperating with the investigation, but have also repeatedly publically denied any alteration to any of the balls. The league, if they were to find the Patriots guilty of altering the balls, could fine the team and, potentially, take draft picks from the team. The issue would be considered an "integrity of the game" violation.
The Patriots were also found to be violating league rules in 2007 when they were caught filming the defensive signals of the New York Jets during a game. Head coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 for that infraction, with the team fined an additional $250,000.
The league has no official comment on the investigation, and the Patriots continue to say they will cooperate with the league.
For more on deflate-gate and the Patriots, check out Pats Pulpit.