Here we go again, the Patriots being accused of “gamesmanship”. Hey, if you’re not cheating you’re not trying, right New England? NFL rules state that each team has to provide 12 footballs to the referees so they can test them for eligibility 2 hours and 15 minutes before the game starts. A properly inflated football according to NFL rules is between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch (PSI). As we all know, a major scandal erupted when it was discovered that 11 of the 12 footballs the Patriots used in the first half of their last playoff game against the Colts were inflated at a reported 2 pounds below the NFL’s regulations. Hmm, looks like the Patriots have cheated again. But was it even worth it? Me, along with many other sports fans that I’ve heard talk about the issue say no. The Patriots are a far better team than the Colts, I was not surprised at all when they won on Sunday. Eerily enough, I was not completely thrown off guard when I heard that the Patriots were using illegal footballs *cough* Spygate *cough*.
Read all about Spygate from one of my favorite internet sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_National_Football_League_videotaping_controversy
Bottom line: the Patriots have a history of bending the rules, and now they are caught in another cheating controversy.
Here’s what I think about this situation: the issue is not about the outcome of Sunday’s game but the integrity of the game. I do not think the deflated footballs caused the Patriots to win. I do think that Brady and Belichick had full knowledge of what was going on, and wanted their footballs to be deflated in order to give their team an advantage.
Heres a link to retired QB Mark Brunell and retired RB Jerome Bettis on ESPN tossing around three footballs. One is over inflated (15 PSI), one is under inflated (11 PSI) and one is within the NFL’s rules for level of inflation (13.5 PSI). The players have a catch with all three footballs, and are unaware of the inflation levels of the footballs they’re throwing around.
Mark Brunell played for 16 seasons in the NFL as a quarterback. He played 191 games, and threw the ball 4640 times in his career. I’m sure he knows as much about the feel of a football as a QB as anyone. Jerome Bettis played for 13 seasons in the NFL as a running back. He played 192 games, and carried the ball 3479 times in his career. I’m sure he knows as much about the feel of a football as a RB as anyone. So when both of these guys talk about the effects of an under inflated football, I trust them. In the video above, both players were right when they guessed which ball was over inflated and under inflated. Brunell said he knew right away which football was under inflated. When talking about the deflated ball, Brunell says, “The advantage is the grip. I can dig my hand into this, I can dig my fingers into it. Trey, with this ball I can throw it further, I can throw it more accurate, there’s a definite difference with this being at 11 (PSI). I mean as soon as you put it in your hands you know. It’s a huge advantage.” When Jerome Bettis was asked about the difference of a deflated ball he said, “…as a ball carrier a huge difference, because once I tuck this (the football), it’s gonna be harder for you to get this ball out of my hands because now I can get into it, I can hold it a lot better so it’s gonna be harder for you to tear it away from me.” These two have convinced me without a doubt that deflated footballs give players an advantage and that the difference in the football is very noticeable.
Both Brady and Belichick held press conferences today. Belichick gave typical short answers, and seemed to be flustered a bit while giving some responses. He denied having any knowledge of any tampering with the game balls and had no explanation as to what happened. Brady appeared a lot more relaxed than his head coach, and seemed to be almost smiling throughout. I thought he had a very forced politeness about him, and I’m sure he was prepped very hard for this press conference. Although he stated multiple times that he values the integrity of the game, his demeanor during the press conference, and his deflated balls said otherwise to me. While talking to the press, Tom said he likes his footballs at 12.5 PSI and that his equipment managers know this. So if the people that handle Brady’s balls know exactly how he likes them, why would they deflate them to a PSI lower than Tom’s preferred 12.5? And, if they ever were to deflate their footballs, do you really believe they would do so without mentioning it to their quarterback? I don’t. Tom denied having any idea that someone tampered with the footballs. He said he didn’t notice that the footballs he was using were deflated in the first half, didn’t know why there was a delay before the second half of play started (it was because the refs were switching out the deflated footballs with regulation footballs) and didn’t notice a difference when his deflated footballs were replaced with properly inflated footballs in the second half. Frankly, I just couldn’t believe a word Brady said during that press conference and this creates a much bigger issue.
Here’s the press conferences:
The Patriots had a chance to really defuse this today. While it is cheating and I absolutely believe there should be consequences, using those deflated footballs this past Sunday isn’t the biggest deal, and isn’t nearly as bad as using those deflated footballs, getting caught and flat out lying about it. The Patriots, Brady, and Belichick are screwing themselves over with their attempt at a cover up. Unless there is evidence to prove otherwise, I simply cannot believe that Brady and Belichick knew nothing about this. I don’t think Tom could be totally clueless to the fact that the football he touches every single play was tampered with. I don’t think any equipment manager would alter a game ball without the consent of his quarterback, or without at least mentioning it to him. The footballs were deflated, someone did it. Belichick claiming he has no knowledge of it throws Brady under the bus. Brady claiming he had no knowledge of it throws his equipment managers under the bus. You’re really trying to tell me that there was a rogue equipment manager who took it upon himself to alter the footballs without telling anyone? I don’t buy it.
Lets be honest here. Every guy knows when his balls just don’t feel right.