NFL examining whether Patriots used under-inflated game balls

NFL spokesman says league is looking into whether Patriots used under-inflated game balls in win over Colts

Did the New England Patriots have an unfair advantage during their blowout win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game on Sunday?

The NFL is investigating whether the Patriots used under-inflated balls during their rain-soaked victory.

NFL spokesman Michael Signora told the league's website that officials are looking into the matter after Bob Kravitz of WTHR-TV in Indianapolis reported that officials during the game took a ball out of play at one point and weighed it. It's unknown if the ball was underweight. All game balls must be inflated with 12.5 to 13.5 pounds of air pressure, according to NFL rules.

Patriots Coach Bill Belichick told reporters Monday the team "will cooperate fully" with the NFL's investigation.

The NFL rulebook states that each team must provide 12 balls to the referee for testing before the game. Home teams ultimately are responsible for having the balls available at all times. The rules also state that the offensive team's center can request a "playable ball" in the case of a "wet, muddy or slippery field."

An under-inflated ball could make it easier to throw and catch, especially in the slippery conditions that were present in Sunday's rainy game at Gillette Stadium.

According to Kravitz, if the NFL concludes that the Patriots used under-inflated balls, it could cost the team draft picks. The team and members of the coaching staff also could be fined.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady laughed off the allegation Monday during his weekly radio appearance on WEEI-FM in Boston, calling it "ridiculous."

"That's the last of my worries," he said. "I don't even respond to stuff like this."

Brady passed for 226 yards and three touchdowns in the Patriots' 45-7 win. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck struggled, throwing two interceptions.

This isn't the first time this postseason that the Patriots have been the subject of a response by league officials. Baltimore Ravens Coach John Harbaugh accused the team of using "deceptive" formations in the Patriots' AFC divisional playoff win. The NFL disagreed, with Signora saying the Patriots "did everything legal from a formation and reporting standpoint."

In 2007, Belichick was fined $500,000 when the league determined the team illegally filmed the hand signals of New York Jets coaches in the season opener. The Patriots also lost a first-round draft pick and were fined $250,000.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

1:50 p.m.: This article has been updated with a comment from Patriots Coach Bill Belichick.

7:50 a.m.: This article has been updated with additional details and background.

This article was originally published at 6:39 a.m.

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