Mike Pereira, the NFL’s former vice president of officiating and now a Fox analyst, outlined changes that include:
* Each team will be required to supply 24 footballs to the officials locker room – 12 primary and 12 backup — 2 hours and 15 minutes prior to the game. Last season the home team had to submit 24 footballs prior to the game but the visitors only had to submit 12 footballs with an option to supply an additional 12 for use in outdoor stadiums.* The referee will designate two members of his crew to conduct a pregame inspection to make sure all footballs meet the required specifications. Last season, the referee was the sole judge.* The officials will number the balls 1-12. Last season, the balls were not numbered.* Any game ball within the allowable range of 12.5 to 13.5 PSI will be approved and the PSI level will not be altered. Any game ball determined to be over 13.5 PSI or under 12.5 PSI will either be deflated or inflated to 13.0 PSI. Last year there was no specific measurement of 13.0 required if an adjustment had to be made.
The same protocol applies to backup balls and Pereira isn’t exactly thrilled with what he deems a “bit of an overreaction.”
“Now,” he writes, “officials have to measure 24 footballs at random games. Now instead of officials discussing their performance in the first half and getting ready for the second half, they’ll be adjusting PSIs.”
The changes seem destined to add another layer of potential controversy to the game, but clearly the old system broke down in the AFC championship.
There’s another wrinkle to the changes, one that the Boston Globe points out. “Now,” an officiating source points out, “the league will have a record of how balls react to the cold. This data could show the Patriot balls reacted normally.”
And if a year’s worth of data shows that the Patriots’ argument, that weather contributed to the deflation of the footballs, was valid? Then the NFL’s punishment of Tom Brady and the Patriots is going to look awfully bad.