As the NFL investigates whether the New England Patriots intentionally deflated footballs during their 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game, stories are coming out about how quarterbacks often alter footballs to try to gain an advantage, some through legal means and others not so much.
The most shocking story comes from former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Brad Johnson.
Johnson told the Tampa Bay Times several years ago that four days before the Bucs beat the Raiders by 48-21 in the 2003 Super Bowl, he secretly paid “some guys” $US7,500 to scuff up and break in all 100 balls that would be used in the game.
“I paid some guys off to get the balls right,” Johnson said. “I went and got all 100 footballs, and they took care of all of them.”
During the regular season and other playoff games this would not have been necessary, as each team provides 12 balls that they will use on offence during the game.
A 2013 New York Times article outlines the extent to which the New York Giants go to to prepare gameday footballs for Eli Manning.
“I want a brand new ball that feels like it’s 10 years old,” Manning told The Times. “You want it to feel like it’s been in your house for 10 years, where you’ve been playing Saturday afternoon games with it for a long time.”
Earlier this season, Aaron Rodgers told Phil Simms of CBS that he actually preferred overinflated footballs. “I like to push the limit to how much air we can put in the football,” Simms recalled Rogers saying. “Even go over what they allow you to do, and see if the officials take the air out of it.”
However, at the Super Bowl, the NFL provided 100 footballs for both teams to use. According to the report, they were “new, slick, and supposedly under the league’s watchful eye.”
The cases of Johnson and Rodgers, however, differ from what the Patriots are accused of.
Johnson had all 100 balls scuffed up, meaning they were being used by both teams. If a scuffed ball is easier to grip and throw, presumably Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon would have benefitted also, and there may not have been a competitive advantage for Johnson.
In the case of Rodgers, he is pushing the limits prior to the balls being inspected by the officials, and not after, to see what the officials will allow. The Patriots are being accused of something more nefarious.
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