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2014

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

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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 12½ to 13½ 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.

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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