How Officials Check Ball Pressure
In November 2013 The MMQB’s Peter King and videographer John DePetro went behind the scenes with Gene Steratore’s officiating crew before a Ravens-Bears game at Soldier Field. The two were granted exclusive access inside the officials' locker room during their pregame preparations.
In the video above, the crew inspects the game balls in the officials' locker room for proper inflation—between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch. Head linesman Wayne Mackie and field judge Bob Waggoner are seen checking the pressure and taking some of the air out of balls to bring them down to regulation. Back judge Dino Paganelli, working at the locker room sink, reinflates balls that fell below regulation up to the 12.5-13.5 psi range. Line judge Jeff Seeman describes how teams work the K balls, the balls used only on specials teams, which come out of the box on game day and are given to the teams to work up for 45 minutes before the game.
The balls would be in the officials' possession until just minutes before the start of the game, at which point they would hand the bags to ball boys on each side of the field. For balls to be tampered with, it would most likely have to take place on the field during the game.
One other note: Based on informal tests done at The MMQB offices, our staffers concluded that a difference of one pound per square inch, the acceptable regulation range, would be imperceptible to most people, and that even a ball that was under regulation by two psi, as the Patriots' balls were reported to have been, would be very hard to detect, especially for someone not looking for it. A ball at 10 psi does not feel "soft," and it would be understandable for officials not to notice the difference. That was also the conclusion of former NFL wideout Amani Toomer on SI's Pro Football Now show when a similar test was done.
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