A second-quarter interception by Indianapolis Colts inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson started the ball rolling into the investigation of the New England Patriots possibly intentionally deflating footballs.
According to Newsday, Jackson's pick in the second quarter, with the Colts trailing 17-7, wound up in the hands of the Colts' equipment staff. That employee noticed the ball was not fully inflated, and informed coach Chuck Pagano. Pagano reportedly relayed the information to general manager Ryan Grigson in the press box and he notified NFL director of football operations Mike Kensil, who contacted the game officials at halftime.
"Any questions on that you should talk to them about," Belichick said Tuesday, referring to the NFL.
The purported advantage, especially in heavy rainfall in the second half, of underinflating footballs would be ball security -- easier to clutch for running backs and catch for receivers -- and also impact the kicking game.
The Patriots beat the Colts 45-7 in the AFC Championship Game.
The league confirmed the investigation began Monday. Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Monday afternoon that the organization will "cooperate fully with whatever questions they ask us and whatever they want us to do."
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady seemed amused when asked Monday morning about the report.
"I think I've heard it all at this point ... it's ridiculous," Brady said during his weekly interview with Boston radio station WEEI. "That's the last of my worries. I don't even respond to stuff like this."
NFL rules stipulate that footballs must be inflated between 12.5-13.5 pounds per square inch and weigh between 14 and 15 ounces.
NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino told NFL AM on Monday that "it's not unheard of for a ball to be removed from circulation and then tested during the week for whatever issue there was."
Former NFL official Jim Daopolous explained to ESPN the process in which footballs are managed. He said that two hours and 15 minutes before each game, officials inspect 12 footballs from each team and put a mark on them to indicate they meet the proper requirements and are good for usage. Then those footballs are given to the ball attendant. There also is a second set of six footballs, used specifically for the kicking game, which are marked appropriately and remain in the possession of officials at all times.
"Officials check balls as they go into the game, and if the ball doesn't feel perfect, they can throw it out," Daopolous told ESPN. "There is always the possibility that balls can lose air due to the conditions."
In 2008, the Patriots were heavily fined and docked a first-round draft pick for what is now known as "SpyGate."