The NFL has confirmed it is looking into charges the New England Patriots cheated Sunday night when they clinched a trip to the Super Bowl Sunday night by using deflated footballs, a charge star quarterback Tom Brady dismissed as "ridiculous."
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed the probe Monday, following the AFC championship game, in which the Patriots demolished the Indianapolis Colts, 45-7. The charge was first made Sunday night, by an Indianapolis reporter, that the NFL had seized at least one game ball from the AFC championship game to examine whether pigskins were intentionally deflated to make them easier to throw and catch.
Brady, in his Monday morning appearance on the New England radio station WEEI, called the report, "ridiculous."
"I think I've heard it all at this point," Brady said. "That's the last of my worries. I don't even respond to stuff like this."
The story first broke when Bob Kravitz, of WTHR in Indiana, reported it.
“The NFL is investigating the possibility."
“The NFL is investigating the possibility,” Bob Kravitz, of WTHR, tweeted, adding that, “at one point the officials took a ball out of play and weighed it.”
If the Patriots did cheat, it would not be the first time. The team was penalized a first-round draft pick, fined $250,000 and head coach Bill Belichick was personally fined $500,000 after an investigation by the NFL determined the team had illegally videotaped their opponents hand signals during a 2007 game.
And unsubstantiated accusations of cheating have long dogged the team, stemming from their Super Bowl wins in 2002, 2004 and 2005. The St. Louis Rams claimed the team illegally videotaped their walk-through practices prior to the 2002 game, and players on the other defeated opponents have said the Patriots seemed to have inside knowledge of their playbooks.
The Patriots lost the Super Bowl in 2008 and 2012, both times to the New York Giants.
Deflating footballs would theoretically have made it easier for Brady, who completed 23 of 35 passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns, to throw and for his receivers to catch in the bad weather of Sunday’s game in Foxboro. HOme teams provide the footballs, and then each team manages the use of them, so both teams do not use the same ball. Colts' quarterback Andrew Luck, who had a miserable game, completing 12 of 33 passes for a mere 126 yards.
According to NFL rules, home teams are required to provide 36 balls for outdoor games and make the balls available for testing with a pressure gauge prior to the game.
The Patriots were also accused of flouting the rules in the game before Sunday’s contest, in which they beat the Baltimore Ravens using unorthodox formations that Ravens Coach John Harbaugh said were designed to confuse the officials and his defense.
However, the margin of victory and the fact that the Colts used the same game balls make it unlikely the cheating, if it occurred, had much of an impact on the game’s outcome. If the allegation is proven, the NFL could take away draft picks from the Partriots.
The University of Southern California, under Lane Kiffin, was fined for deflating footballs in 2012 against arch-rival Oregon. Kiffin blamed a student-manager, who was fired.
Super Bowl XLIX takes place Feb. 1 in Glendale, Arizona. The defending champion Seattle Seahawks, who punched a return ticket with a 28-22 win over the Green Bay Packers prior to the Patriots-Colts game, are a two-and-a-half-point favorite in early betting.