It was around this time seven years ago that the NFL was engulfed with a growing controversy surrounding deflated footballs and the New England Patriots. What ultimately ended up being famously dubbed Deflategate centered around allegations that New England was using deflated footballs during the first half of the AFC Championship against the Indianapolis Colts. From there, this saga blossomed into one of the biggest off-field battles in recent memory. It featured Tom Brady going to court against the NFL after being handed a four-game suspension, along with the Patriots being fined $1 million while also being docked a first-round and fourth-round draft choice. While this did paint the Patriots in a very nefarious light, recent revelations do appear to slightly exonerate them. In a nugget from his upcoming book Playmakers, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports two new pieces to the Deflategate saga that don’t look too fondly on the NFL and its handling of the situation. The first comes from the initial report that sparked the saga. In the aftermath of that game, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that 11 of the 12 football used by the Patriots’ offense during that game were underinflated by at least two pounds each. That information was ultimately proven to be false and a correction was eventually made in the initial report. In Playmakers, Florio reports that the source of that incorrect information was NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent.
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Florio notes that it is unclear whether Vincent deliberately gave Mortensen the inaccurate information, highlighting the confusion during the early days of the scandal. Nevertheless, that report sent waves throughout the league and forced Brady and the Patriots to publicly go on the defense.
The second nugget that Florio reveals in the book is arguably the biggest of the two as it reveals direct science that supports New England’s defense, if not exonerates the franchise completely. Beginning in 2015, the NFL began conducting air-pressure spot checks at halftime of games. The data was collected and hidden by the league with none of the numbers ever seeing the light of day. Under the Ideal Gas Law, the working theory is that the air pressure in the balls would rise during warm days and fall during cold days, which is what happened. Playmakers reveals that “numerous” measurements made at halftime of games during the 2015 season produced numbers beyond the permitted 12.5 to 13.5 PSI levels and correlated to the Ideal Gas Law. That means the footballs used by the Patriots were consistent with the conditions that they were playing in that day as it relates to the recorded data in 2015, distorting those initial allegations of wrongdoing.As for what happened to those results, Florio reports in Playmakers that the NFL expunged the numbers under the direct order of NFL general counsel Jeff Pash. Of course, Pash was a major figure throughout the Deflategate saga and was even allowed to edit the “independent” Wells report. Why would Pash and the league destroy the PSI data? It would appear that the information collected during 2015 would go further in proving the Patriots’ innocence rather than prove to be a smoking gun to use against them.
It should be noted that, based on the text messages between then-ball boys John Jastremski and Jim McNally, the Patriots may have been doing something that stretched beyond the NFL rulebook, but the league didn’t appear to come close to actually catching them red handed.