The NFL's head of officiating said Thursday that officials inspected the footballs properly before the AFC championship game — in which 11 of 12 New England Patriots' footballs were found to be underinflated — and there will be enhanced inspections of the game balls before Super Bowl XLIX.
"My major concern is did we follow proper protocol?" said Dean Blandino, the league's vice president of officiating. "Everything was properly tested and marked before the game.... Officiating is not part of the investigation."
Before a typical game, 12 balls per team are brought to the officials' locker room where they are tested to ensure they are properly inflated, then are stamped by the referee. For the Super Bowl, each team gets 54 footballs, and all of them will be taken into custody by the NFL on Friday after the Seattle Seahawks and Patriots have prepared them.
Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll said that to indicate when normally eligible receivers check into games as ineligible — a strategy the Patriots have used that can confuse a defense — Super Bowl officials will use hand signals to give a clear indication of what's happening.
Carroll said he has spoken with league officials to get a clear understanding of how the players in question will be identified.
"I know the league is absolutely committed to getting that right and doing that well," Carroll said. "The Patriots have brought that to the forefront because they've been using some stuff like that lately. We've been preparing for it every day because we don't want to be caught in mishandling on our end. It's really on us to see it."