The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Remember that PSI data the NFL collected? Roger Goodell isn’t going to share it.

Roger Goodell on the sideline before the NFC championship game between the Carolina Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals. (Mike McCarn/Associated Press)

The NFL devoted a great deal of energy to monitoring and accumulating data about the PSI level of footballs during the regular season, all presumably in the quest to determine just how DeflateGate came to pass.

It measured the inflation of footballs on a random basis before, during and after games, but now, even though that might illuminate a subject that dominated headlines during the offseason and still lingers, the league will not share the information or say whether it showed that the Patriots and Tom Brady were circumventing the rule book. The league’s purpose in collecting the information was not to determine the effects of weather and temperature on ball inflation; it was done to ensure fair competition.

“What the league did this year was what we do with a lot of rules and policies designed to protect the integrity of the game, and that’s to create a deterrent effect,” Goodell said Tuesday on “The Rich Eisen Show.” “We do spot checks to prevent and make sure the clubs understand that we’re watching these issues. It wasn’t a research study. They simply were spot checks.”

There were, Goodell said Tuesday, no violations and you’ll just have to take him at his word on that.

“We’re pleased that we haven’t had any violations,” he said, “and we continue the work, obviously, to consistently and importantly enforce the integrity of the game and the rules that are designed to protect it.”

Goodell told Eisen that his No. 1 obligation is “to uphold the integrity of the game. “That’s to uphold the rules of the game and make sure all 32 teams are operating under the same rules, all players are operating under the same rules.”

This is not a personal vendetta against Brady, he said, even as DeflateGate remains an active court case. “I have great admiration for Tom. I know him personally. Obviously I respect his playing ability — he’s an extraordinary player, a sure Hall of Famer, and I have nothing but admiration for him.

“But I have to make sure that we continue to do the things that are necessary to protect the integrity of the game and I will do that without compromise.”

The NFL’s decision to monitor footballs, didn’t sound much like a spot check last fall (via Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel).

Here’s how it was written as an “update” to the NFL’s operation manual back in August 2015:
“At designated games, selected at random, the game balls used in the first half will be collected by the KBC [kicking-ball coordinator] at halftime, and the League’s Security Representative will escort the KBC with the footballs to the Officials’ Locker room. During halftime, each game ball for both teams will be inspected in the locker room by designated members of the officiating and security crews, and the PSI results will be measured and recorded. Once measured, those game balls will then be secured and removed from play.
“For these randomly selected games only, the back-up footballs will be used for each team during the second half. Approximately three minutes prior to kickoff, the KBC along with a designated Game Official will bring the back-up set of game balls to the on-field replay station to be distributed to each club’s Ball Crew.
“At the end of any randomly selected game, the KBC will return the footballs to the Officials’ Locker Room where all game balls from each team will be inspected and the results will be recorded.”

The information might have helped settle DeflateGate, still a controversial subject for New England Patriots fans with the NFL’s appeal of the decision to overturn Brady’s four-game suspension set to be heard next month. The Patriots also lost first- and fourth-round draft picks and were fined $1 million. And, if the lower-court decision in Brady’s favor is overturned, he will be suspended for the first four games of the season.

So, instead of settling the debate over the Ideal Gas Law and the effect of weather on the inflation level of footballs, the NFL will keep the information to itself. Maybe it’s part of a genius plan to keep talking about the league year-round. That’s what one former NFL player told Mark Leibovich for a New York Times magazine piece entitled “Roger Goodell’s Unstoppable Football Machine.”

Two weeks earlier, Joe Thomas, a star offensive tackle for the Cleveland Browns, compared Goodell to the professional-wrestling impresario Vince McMahon in an ESPN interview. Thomas did this while voicing support for Brady, saying that the punishment for whatever the quarterback might have done with his footballs was akin to getting the death penalty for a minor traffic violation. Thomas also called the commissioner’s tactics ‘‘brilliant.’’ ‘‘He’s made the NFL relevant 365 [days a year] by having these outrageous, ridiculous witch hunts,’’ Thomas said of Goodell. ‘‘It’s made the game more popular than ever, and it’s become so much more of an entertainment business, and it’s making so much money.’’ He added: ‘‘It’s almost like the Kim Kardashian factor — that any news is good news when you’re in the NFL.’’