The NFL has launched an investigation into whether the New England Patriots purposely deflated footballs for the AFC Championship. The allegedly deflated balls were first noticed by the Colts when linebacker D'Qwell Jackson intercepted a Tom Brady pass in the second quarter, according to Newsday.
Jackson brought the ball over to a member of the Colts' equipment staff, who then notified head coach Chuck Pagano. General manager Ryan Grigson was told of the issue in the press box and he got in touch with Mike Kensil, the NFL director of football operations.
All of this happened before halftime, when the score was 17-7. New England blew the game open in the third quarter, scoring 21 unanswered points. The Patriots eventually won 45-7, putting them in their sixth Super Bowl since 2001.
If the NFL finds New England guilty of the charges, the team could be docked draft picks.
For his part in the whole thing, Pagano claims he was not aware of the situation during the game:
"Did not notice, and that’s something for the league to handle. It’s not my place to comment on it."
One interesting note was the beginning of the second half. Following the kickoff, there was a lengthy delay while the officials changed out the ball in play for a new one. At the time, the CBS telecast speculated that the ball in play was a kicking ball, and that it was being changed out for a scrimmage ball. The difference is that a kicking ball is not scuffed up to allow for better grip. If this is the reason for the delay, it is completely legal.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is ready for any questions from the league should they arise:
"We'll cooperate fully with whatever the league wants us to, whatever questions they ask," Belichick said Monday during his regular conference call with reporters.
By NFL rules, home teams are responsible for providing playable footballs. If the balls are tampered with, there is a hefty price to pay, according to Boston's ABC affiliate WCVB-5:
"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."
During his weekly radio interview on WEEI, Brady was not concerned about the investigation and called the allegation ridiculous:
"I think I've heard it all at this point," Brady said with a laugh.
"That's the last of my worries," he said. "I don't even respond to stuff like this."
While the league's investigation continues, the Patriots are prepping for Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks in Glendale, Ariz., at University of Phoenix Stadium. New England is seeking its fourth title while the Seahawks aim for their second straight championship.