The NFL’s new football custody and testing procedures that came as a reaction to the Patriots’ Deflategate incident will continue for the 2016 season, NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent said on a media conference call Thursday.
Vincent said there is no need to modify the procedures after the NFL had “no violations” in 2015.
“There is no need for us to change our pregame protocol that pertains to game balls,” Vincent said in advance of the league’s annual owners meetings, which begin Sunday in Boca Raton, Fla. “We had no violations of that process, we’ll continue to [handle footballs] in the manner we’ve set forth.”
But the definition of “no violations” is a bit murky. The league’s new procedures not only called for extra security around the game balls, but also for random pressure testing before, during and after randomly selected games, with all results logged and sent to the league office.
Does “no violations” mean that no football tested measured below 12.5 PSI? Does the league office have the data it collected, and will it be released to the public?
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said previously that the NFL simply made “spot checks” last season and indicated the league office would not be making any PSI results public.
Thursday, when Vincent was asked to clarify if “no violations” meant that no ball measured under 12.5 PSI, he said the NFL instead focused on the custody of the game balls.
“We focus on procedure, balls being brought to the stadium,” Vincent said. “There was no violation of game balls being checked in at the appropriate time. There was no violation of game balls being in the officials locker room, being brought to the field, back to the locker rooms at halftime, and then the balls being brought back to the locker room post game. So it’s the procedure of the balls themselves.”
The NFL implemented an historic punishment against the Patriots — $1 million in fines and the loss of first- and fourth-round draft picks — and attempted to suspend Brady for four games over allegations that the Patriots illegally deflated their footballs in the 2015 AFC Championship game. The NFL contends the Patriots’ footballs measured below the league’s 12.5 PSI minimum threshold as part of a “deliberate scheme” to soften the footballs, as orchestrated by Brady and carried out by two Patriots employees.
The Patriots staunchly maintain their innocence but accepted the penalties and will not have a first-round pick in April’s draft. Brady had his suspension wiped out by a federal judge in September, clearing him to play for the 2015 season, but the NFL is appealing the decision in court.