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NFL finalizes new rules for football inspection

Among the new procedures, the NFL will introduce random football pressure-checking at halftime and after the game.
Among the new procedures, the NFL will introduce random football pressure-checking at halftime and after the game. RICK OSENTOSKI/ASSOCIATED PRESS/FILE

The NFL has finalized its pregame football inspection and custody procedures in the wake of Deflategate, an NFL officiating source confirmed Sunday to the Globe.

Among the new procedures, the NFL will introduce random football pressure-checking at halftime and after the game, will record pregame PSI data, and use league personnel to guard footballs until closer to kickoff.

The NFL informed its officials of the new rules over the weekend, to be implemented this fall after the Patriots were accused of intentionally deflating their footballs below legal limits in their AFC Championship game victory over the Colts last January.

Former head of officiating Mike Pereira, who first reported the news for Fox Sports, called the new rules an “overreaction” by the NFL. But the league felt it had to take steps to better secure the footballs after the Colts and Ravens complained last January about the Patriots allegedly deflating footballs.

The Patriots have staunchly maintained their innocence over the last six months, claiming that weather conditions naturally deflated their footballs.

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“Now the league will have a record of how balls react to the cold,” the officiating source said. “This data could show the Patriot balls reacted normally.”

An NFL spokesman did not return a message seeking comment.

Teams will still be able to provide their own footballs, but several safeguards have been put in place.

Among the new procedures:

■   The “kicking ball coordinator” at each game, who previously only handled the six “k balls,” will now take custody of all footballs once they have been approved by the officials, and maintain control of the footballs until 10 minutes before kickoff. The coordinator, a member of the officiating crew, and a security representative will bring the 24 approved game footballs (12 for each team) to the on-field replay station, at which point the footballs will be distributed to each team, in the presence of the league security personnel. The 24 backup footballs (12 for each team) will remain secured in the officials’ locker room.

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■  The NFL will designate random games in which to test the football PSI at halftime and after the game. The kicking ball coordinator will collect the footballs from both teams at halftime, will be escorted to the locker room by the league’s security personnel, will measure and record the PSI of all 24 footballs, and then remove the footballs from play. The 24 backup footballs will then be used in the second half.

■  At the end of each randomly selected game, the kicking ball coordinator will again inspect all game balls from each team and record the results. All recorded information will be reported back to the league office.

■  Before the game, the referee will designate two members of the officiating crew to inspect the balls pregame. The officials will number the balls 1-12, and record all PSI data. Previously, the balls were not numbered, the data was not recorded, and only one member of the officiating crew inspected the footballs.

■  The footballs still need to measure between 12.5 and 13.5 PSI. If a ball comes in above or below those numbers, it will be adjusted to 13.0 PSI.

The NFL found two Patriots locker room attendees guilty of a deflation scheme, and implemented historic penalties against the Patriots — a $1 million fine and the loss of first- and fourth-round draft picks for the team, and a four-game suspension for quarterback Tom Brady for being “generally aware” of the alleged scheme.

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Brady appealed his suspension to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell last month, and is still awaiting resolution almost five weeks later. The NFL Players Association has threatened to file a lawsuit against the NFL if Brady’s suspension is not eliminated. The Patriots have agreed not to fight their penalties.

The two Patriots’ locker room employees — assistant equipment manager John Jastremski and part-time game-day employee Jim McNally — remain suspended by the Patriots.


Ben Volin can be reached at ben.volin@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin.