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Report: NFL to investigate Patriots for deflating footballs in AFC title game

As if there weren't enough storylines heading into Super Bowl XLIX between the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots, we have this from longtime Indianapolis newsman Bob Kravitz, regarding alleged shenanigans the Patriots are thought to have perpetrated in their 45-7 thrashing of the Colts in the AFC Championship Game.

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From Kravitz's Twitter feed on Sunday night, a few hours after the game:

Breaking: A league source tells me the NFL is investigating the possibility the Patriots deflated footballs Sunday night. More to come. I'm told at one point the officials took a ball out of play and weighed it. Should hear more tomorrow on this subject.

Didn't have a chance to talk to Colts officials about this. They were long gone when I heard this.

Nobody is suggesting this is why the Colts lost, obviously. They were manhandled. Told if a league investigation confirms deflated footballs it will result in lost draft picks. Stay tuned.

The league confirmed the investigation without further comment, per multiple reports.

"I think I've heard it all," Tom Brady told WEEI Radio Monday morning with a laugh. "Oh, God. It's ridiculous ... That's the last of my worries. I don't even respond to stuff like this."

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As to the veracity of this report, here's how footballs are provided and tested for games, from the NFL's official rule book.

The Referee shall be the sole judge as to whether all balls offered for play comply with these specifications. A pump is to be furnished by the home club, and the balls shall remain under the supervision of the Referee until they are delivered to the ball attendant just prior to the start of the game.

Each team will make 12 primary balls available for testing by the Referee two hours and 15 minutes prior to the starting time of the game to meet League requirements. The home team will also make 12 backup balls available for testing in all stadiums. In addition, the visitors, at their discretion, may bring 12 backup balls to be tested by the Referee for games held in outdoor stadiums. For all games, eight new footballs, sealed in a special box and shipped by the manufacturer to the Referee, will be opened in the officials’ locker room two hours and 15 minutes prior to the starting time of the game.

These balls are to be specially marked by the Referee and used exclusively for the kicking game.

In the event a home team ball does not conform to specifications, or its supply is exhausted, the Referee shall secure a proper ball from the visitors and, failing that, use the best available ball. Any such circumstances must be reported to the Commissioner.

In case of rain or a wet, muddy, or slippery field, a playable ball shall be used at the request of the offensive team’s center.

The Game Clock shall not stop for such action (unless undue delay occurs).

Note: It is the responsibility of the home team to furnish playable balls at all times by attendants from either side of the playing field.

Of course, this could be much ado about nothing, but given their role in the Spygate scandal a few years back, the Pats are never going to get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to any allegations of subterfuge. In that scandal, the league determined that the Patriots illegally videotaped opponents over a period of time from 2002 through '07. New England lost its 2008 first-round draft choice, Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, and the team was fined $250,000. It was the largest financial sanction against a coach in NFL history. 

Ten years after last Super Bowl win, it looks like it's Pats' time once again

Just last week, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh accused Belichick and his team of playing fast and loose with the rules on a few plays in New England's divisional round win over Baltimore after Belichick called some interesting plays with eligible and non-eligible receivers. Harbaugh was angry after the Ravens' loss, alleging that the officials did not give the Ravens time to identify the receiver changes.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady responded by saying that the Ravens should take a sharper look at the rule book. The NFL came out and said that in that case, the Pats did nothing untoward. But if these deflating allegations are true, the Pats might be on the wrong end of that rule book once again.