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Deflate-gate?; Did Pats let air out of ball vs. Colts?

Byline: Rich Garven

The Patriots could be towing some extra baggage with them when they head to Arizona next week for Super Bowl XLIX.

A report surfaced following the Patriots' 45-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night in the AFC Championship the NFL would investigate whether the Patriots knowingly deflated footballs used in the waterlogged game at Gillette Stadium.

On Monday morning, league spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed an investigation was underway.

"We'll cooperate fully with whatever the league wants us to, whatever questions they ask us, whatever they want us to do,'' coach Bill Belichick said during a conference call in the afternoon.

Belichick said he had no idea there was a possible issue with any balls used during the game and the matter was first brought to his attention Monday morning. He responded to, but didn't directly answer when asked if the Patriots used deflated footballs in the win.

"I just said, the first time I heard about it was this morning,'' Belichick said. "Whatever we need from the league, then that's what we'll do.''

According to the NFL rule book, "it is the responsibility of the home team to furnish playable balls at all times.'' It also specifically lists measurements for the pounds per square inch (12.5 to 13.5) and weight (14 to 15 ounces) of any game balls.

A ball that is underinflated in theory would be easier to catch, especially in wet conditions. It's worth noting both the Patriots and Colts dropped at least two passes Sunday night and they all appeared to be due to a lack of concentration rather than an abundance of water.

"I think I've heard it all at this point,'' quarterback Tom Brady chuckled while making his weekly paid appearance on WEEI radio. "That's the last of my worries. I don't even respond to stuff like this.''

If the claim is proven true the Patriots would be fined monetarily and, perhaps, with the forfeiture of a draft pick.

Even worse, the convincing victory that secured them a record-tying eighth Super Bowl appearance would become tainted. Especially with the many football fans outside New England who still associate the Patriots' near perfect 2007 season with the illegal videotaping controversy forever known as Spygate.

Esteemed columnist Bob Kravitz of Indianapolis television station WTHR broke the story Sunday night. On Monday morning, he appeared on WEEI and said a reliable source tipped him off to what he originally considered an "outlandish'' claim.

Kravitz's initial reaction was to pass on the story, but he then reconsidered.

"I thought, well, everybody thought the idea of them taping practice was outlandish,'' Kravitz said.

There is a possibility of this latest allegation becoming a distraction, although the Patriots have proven to be insular to outside influence. This looks to be more of the same.

"I obviously have a huge task in front of me here with the Seattle Seahawks, which I'm trying to dive into and get familiar with them,'' defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. "They're obviously a very explosive offense that can do a number of different things with a very mobile quarterback -- obviously a very strong run game, so that's where my focus is right now.''

Contact Rich Garven


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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Garven, Rich
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jan 20, 2015
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