NFL plans to change football handling guidelines, report says

The NFL reportedly plans to change guidelines regarding the way footballs are handled before games.

The Associated Press, citing an unnamed source, says the procedural changes result from the Deflategate scandal that has rocked the league. The NFL wants to avoid the possibility that teams could tamper with footballs, and any change wouldn’t require a vote from owners.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season and the organization was fined $1 million and docked a couple of draft picks after independent investigator Ted Wells, hired by the NFL, found that the team used illegally under-inflated balls in the AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. Brady has filed an appeal through the NFL Players Association.

Under the current rules, footballs are sent directly to teams. Equipment managers can brush them and even use a damp towel to rub off oil used to preserve the leather to the preferences of each quarterback. The quarterbacks can even practice with the footballs during a game week as long as the balls remain in good enough condition to pass the referee’s pre-game inspection as a new ball. Each team brings at least 12 balls.

The footballs must be delivered to the officials’ delivered to the officials’ dressing room 2 hours and 14 minutes before game time. The referee inspects each one, with a pump provided by the home team to adjust air pressure as needed. Footballs are required to have at least 12.5 psi and no more than 13.5 psi.

The referee is the sole judge of whether a ball is fit for play and marks each one approved for the game. The rule says the footballs "shall remain under the supervision of the referee until they are delivered to the ball attendant just prior to the start of the game."

The details of game ball rules are expected to be discussed next week at the owners’ meetings in San Francisco.

The Associated Press contributed to this report