GLENDALE, Arizona (Reuters) - In an effort to avoid another ‘deflategate’ controversy, the National Football League will monitor game balls for Sunday’s Super Bowl more closely than it does for other games during the season.
With a probe looking into whether the New England Patriots used deliberately deflated footballs to gain an edge in their playoff game that clinched a Super Bowl berth, the NFL has issued a reminder about the process for it’s biggest game.
Game balls go through a complex series of selection, testing and security ahead of Sunday’s 6:30 p.m. ET kickoff. There appears little room for any of the skullduggery that the Patriots have been accused of by some.
After the Patriots and Seattle Seahawks clinched their Super Bowl berths two weeks ago, ball manufacturer Wilson shipped 54 balls to both teams.
“The teams are allowed to prepare and practice with these footballs until the Friday before the Super Bowl,” the NFL said in a statement.
“Each team’s quarterback can prepare the footballs to suit his preferences — as long as his preferences comply with league specifications, rules and policies.”
The NFL’s designated equipment manager will then collect the balls, inspect them and eliminate any that are not up to code, which is usually seven to 10 balls, the NFL said.
Approved balls are stored overnight with NFL Security.
On Saturday, the balls are certified and marked with the help of a professional sports authentication company and then placed under lock and key until they are brought to the stadium about three hours before the kickoff.
The balls are then taken to the officials’ locker-room where they are tested to ensure each is inflated between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch.
The referee then marks the balls as suitable for play, usually using different colored pens for each team, before the equipment manager and his crew take charge of the balls.
“Unless they are being used for an offensive play, each team’s game footballs will be in the possession of a crew member for the rest of the game,” the NFL said.
The balls are then returned to the officials’ locker room, where they are rechecked for proper inflation. The equipment manager then returns the balls to the field for use in the second half.
Editing by Frank Pingue