PHOENIX — Following a 20-minute press conference inside the Phoenix Convention Center Thursday, the NFL’s director of officiating acknowledged that likely changes are coming in the way NFL officials check in game balls before every contest.
At the heart of the Deflategate controversy is how the Patriots game balls were handled prior to the AFC championship game against the Colts by referee Walt Anderson. Questions have arisen as to whether every ball was checked to be between the required 12.5 and 13.5 PSI before being approved for use in the game. Dean Blandino attempted to clarify the rules and clear his officials of any wrongdoing.
“Walt did it himself. Walt gauged the footballs himself,” Blandino said. “That’s something that he’s done throughout his career.”
Did Blandino and the league simply take ref at his word? “Yes,” Blandino said. “There were balls from both teams that were tested but with the investigation going on, I can’t get into specifics.
“They’re not logged and that’s certainly something that could be a thought. They’re tested, they make sure that they’re in that acceptable range and then they basically mark the football to say this is an acceptable football in that proper specification.
“Whatever it is, if it’s in that acceptable range, we leave it where it is. It’s only when it’s either above or below that we have to get it in that acceptable range. We’re confident proper protocols were followed.”
In other words, there’s no specific PSI record of each individual ball.
Who does the measuring?
“It’s either the referee or someone he delegates that job to,” Blandino said. “They’re responsible for gauging all the footballs but the referee himself will inspect every football and then put his mark on the football.”
Much was made of the NFL reportedly coming up with a video of a ball boy going into a bathroom with the balls. Would the NFL install security cameras in officials rooms to make sure all footballs stay undoctored?
“I’m sure everything is on the table,” Blandino told WEEI.com. “With the amount of attention this has gotten, the committee is going to review it and we’ll see. We’ll see what we come up with.
“Normally, they’re taken out of circulation and sent back to the league office. They’re sent back to the league office and then sent to Wilson to determine, ‘Was this sent this way?’ ‘Was air taken out’ so you go through that process.”
“Committee will review all the processes and protocols and make a recommendation.”
At halftime of the AFC championship game, the underinflated balls were pumped up and put back into play.
“It’s an electric pump that is used in the locker room. What the officials will do, if the ball is within the acceptable range, they don’t touch it. They don’t put air in. They don’t take air out.”
Might the NFL let teams handle balls however they want to help offense?
“I think that’s a question for the competition committee,” Blandino said. “They’re going to review that. I think a lot of the rules that were in place were because footballs were being manipulated in some way. It really revolved around the K-Balls. That’s where we saw it the most, over inflating the balls to gain more lift and get more hang-time, and that’s why we went to the K-Balls. I don’t know what the committee is going to recommend but we’ll be part of the conversation.”