Speaking before his induction into the USC Athletics Hall of Fame in Los Angeles on Saturday, Del Rio drew comparisons between the penalties the NFL levied on the New England Patriots and the sanctions the NCAA imposed on USC following its Reggie Bush investigation.
“I think there are some similarities in terms of an overreaction, from my standpoint,” Del Rio said, according to the Associated Press. “I think it was a little bit overdone, but that's somebody else's problem right now.”
Del Rio said the NFL may have come down too hard with its punishments since high-scoring passing offenses — and the quarterbacks who orchestrate them — have always been popular with fans. Instead, the NFL would be better served if they only warned quarterbacks and teams that manipulation of footballs would not be tolerated going forward, he contended.
"Everybody understands that quarterbacks all want to get the balls how they like them, and why not?" Del Rio said. “They throw these balls around, and one of the reasons the sport is so popular is the ability of guys like Peyton [Manning] and [Tom] Brady to throw the ball the way they do."
Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll, who also was inducted into the USC hall of fame Saturday, said he agreed with the NFL's decision to investigate the use of underinflated footballs by the Patriots.
“Nobody wants to play this game thinking that somebody has some kind of advantage, players and fans alike, and so they did the right thing in following up on it,” Carroll said.
The Patriots' Brady was suspended for four games last Monday after the NFL's probe concluded it was "more probable than not" that he was "generally aware" of team attendants deflating footballs. Brady is appealing the suspension.
In addition to Brady's suspension, the Patriots were stripped of their 2016 first-round and 2017 fourth-round draft picks and fined $1 million.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.