The NFL has determined that 11 of the 12 footballs allocated to the New England Patriots in Sunday's AFC Championship Game were under-inflated by two pounds of air (PSI), reports Chris Mortensen of ESPN. The NFL reportedly did not add comment and the Patriots will cooperate with the investigation.
Former NFL referee Gerry Austin told ESPN on Wednesday that the 12th ball was also under-inflated, just not by two PSI.
The game officials discovered at halftime that footballs used in the first half were under-inflated, testing each ball twice with different gauges, according to Ben Volin of The Boston Globe.
Reports surfaced shortly after the Patriots' 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts Sunday night that the NFL was investigating the possibility that New England intentionally had footballs deflated in order to allow players to maintain a better grip during inclement weather.
ProFootballTalk.com also reported on Monday that several footballs were removed from the game for being inadequately inflated.
According to the NFL rule book, the referee is the sole judge of whether all footballs used in play comply with specifications. Pumps are furnished by the home team -- Sunday's game was played in New England's Gillette Stadium -- and footballs must remain under supervision of the referee until they are delivered to the ball attendant shortly before 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.
The league's game operations manual also notes:
''If any individual alters the footballs, or if a non-approved ball is used in the game, the person responsible and, if appropriate, the head coach or other club personnel will be subject to discipline, including but not limited to, a fine of $25,000.''
In the aftermath of his initial report on the story, longtime Indianapolis NFL writer Bob Kravitz of WTHR-TV said that the Patriots could be forced to surrender draft picks if they are found to have intentionally deflated the footballs.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said the team would cooperate fully with any league inquiries.
New England will face the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1.
- Mike Fiammetta