NFL investigating whether Patriots deflated footballs for advantage against Colts

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NEW YORK — The NFL said Monday it is looking into reports the New England Patriots deflated footballs in an attempt to gain an advantage against the Indianapolis Colts in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, FOX59 in Indianapolis reported.

The NFL rule book says the footballs should be inflated with between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds of air. Having less air would make the balls easier to grip, especially in rainy conditions that existed in the game at Foxborough, Mass.

New England won, 45-7, to advance to Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks on Feb. 1 at Glendale, Ariz.

Rules say each team make “12 primary balls available for testing” two hours, 15 minutes before kickoff.  The home team must make 12 backup balls available and the visiting team can bring another 12 backup balls for outdoor games.

All balls remain under the supervision of the referee until they are delivered to the ball attendant shortly before kickoff.

Bob Kravitz of WTHR in Indianapolis suggested the specifications of the balls weren’t properly checked before they were given to the ball attendant.

Pro Football Talk, citing a league source, said “several balls were removed from play for being underinflated.”

Kravitz said punishment for the deflation of footballs could result in lost draft picks.

In 2008, the Patriots lost a first-round draft pick after taping signals from New York Jets coaches. Coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 and the team forked over a $250,000 fine in what became known as “Spygate.”

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady told Boston radio station WEEI the charge is “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.”

In 2012, USC was fined and reprimanded by the Pacific-12 Conference after a student manager was found to have intentionally deflated balls in a game against Oregon. Then-coach Lane Kiffin insisted the student manager acted alone and Kiffin knew nothing about it.

USC was fined $25,000 by the conference and the student manager was fired.