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Walt Anderson’s crew checked all footballs before AFC Championship Game

Crew followed standard procedure to prepare footballs for the game

The past 24 hours have featured a media frenzy where the New England Patriots are accused of deflating the game balls to better suit quarterback Tom Brady in the wet weather.   The NFL is investigating the matter.

By rule, footballs need to be inflated to between 12 ½ to 13 ½ p.s.i.   Two hours before the game, the officiating crew checks the footballs provided by the teams.   Each team provides 12 footballs to be used when their team is on offense.   If the forecast calls for foul weather, each time provides 24 balls to use.   The officials test the air pressure and weight of each ball, adding or subtracting air until it meets the specifications.   Each crew marks the ball with a special symbol unique to the crew. Ron Winter used to stamp each approved ball with a snowflake, while Gene Steratore labels each football with the initials of his significant other.   The imprimatur of Anderson’s crew is an interlocked WA. You can read more about the process here.

After each ball is checked in, the bag is returned to each club’s representative and the team has custody of game balls from then on.   The NFL employs someone to have custody of the “kicking balls” at all times, but the teams are responsible for their own supply of game balls.   The next time the official sees the scrimmage ball is when they toss it in to play.

Any speculation about wrongdoing or potential penalties is just that — speculation.   It will be very interesting to see what the NFL concludes and if the league will adopt any changes in who is custodian of the balls between official inspection and the time that ball is put into the game.

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Mark Schultz
Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"

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13 thoughts on “Walt Anderson’s crew checked all footballs before AFC Championship Game

  1. Did on-field crew check game balls in AFC CC game, or did the alternates do the verification process?

  2. It’s nearly impossible to check the pressure of game balls as the action in the game is happening. NFL offenses move much too swiftly. You could have someone responsible for checking pressure of every ball prior to sending it into the field of play, but that would be difficult, and they don’t do that currently. There’s some sensor technology that would allow you to check ball pressure fairly easily and quickly, but the NFL has been very reticent to adopt new technology, even when it could improve the game’s efficiency (i.e. laser/sensor for line to gain obviating the need for a chain gang).

    The real takeaway here is that the NFL needs to supply one set of balls for the game and place all balls under the authority of the officials and their crew at all times, and only handled by players when on the field of play. Each team can bring their own balls for warming up on the sidelines, but they shouldn’t be used in play.

  3. I don’t believe the officials did anything wrong. Bill Belicheat has a history of this and the worst thing that happened from that is that is Goodell had the evidence destroyed from Spygate- further employing distrust from the fans.

  4. Whether every team cheats or not isn’t the issue- the ones who get caught should be punished accordingly – and not a slap in the wrist as is typical NFL policy…

  5. I know all those officials that were on the field. I don’t think any of them would have did anything wrong. Walt Anderson is one of my closest friends.

  6. mike pereira gave a different account today saying balls are on sidline near replay machine and guarded

  7. What is the big deal about the pressure of the football? If a “flatter football” is easier to throw and catch then why not let all teams choose the pressure they like? When was this 12.5-13.5 psi rule created and why?

  8. well the big deal is that this is the NFL!!! Even the worst team in the league plays at such a high level, a very small thing could affect the outcome of a game. I suppose the NFL could increase or decrease the actual numerical range for the psi, as long as every team is allowed the SAME range. It is similar to pass interference rules, or even the salary cap…It’s to be sure that the only advantage one team has over another is their players, the coaching, the game plan…execution, and the heart and character of each team. I believe that working to keep this “level playing field” is one of the reasons football is the beloved sport that it is…now, whether the Patriots actually did take an unfair advantage by intentionally lowering their game balls’ psi AFTER the officials had measured each teams balls prior to the first snap, in order to make it easier for their offense to throw, catch, and hold onto the ball throughout each play…that is yet to be proven. I hope not. Not that I have any great love for the Pats, but they are too good a team to need to resort to cheating…so, they did, it would be very sad . we’ll have to wait and see…

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