NFL umpire Carl Paganelli was among the officiating crew at the AFC Championship Game who approved the Patriots' footballs. Elsa/Getty Images

By Steve DelVecchio

Many have questioned the role of the officials in Deflategate, and rightfully so. A huge part of the NFL’s investigation will be determining if the New England Patriots’ game balls were tested, approved and then had air taken out of them. According to one Boston sports radio station, only some of that happened.

98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich Show” reports that the Patriots turned in their game balls slightly under-inflated and an official — presumably head referee Walt Anderson — signed off on them. The show’s source indicated that a pressure gauge was not used.

Of course, this report directly conflicts others that we have already shared with you. Ben Volin of the Boston Globe was told that all 48 of the footballs — 12 game balls for each team and 12 backup balls — were tested with a pressure gauge and approved.

Unless the NFL can provide documentation proving that an official stuck a needle inside of each ball and measure the PSI, the league will have a problem on its hands. As we mentioned before, the NFL could be trying to cover for its officials and prove they were not negligent before an important playoff game.

Some comments Aaron Rodgers made last week are one of the reasons I have not ruled out the possibility of the officials not doing their job. Rodgers admitted that he likes the ball to have as much air in it as possible and gets annoyed when the referees take air out.

“I have a major problem with the way it goes down, to be honest with you,” Rodgers said on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show. “The majority of the time, they take air out of the football. I think that, for me, is a disadvantage.”

If referees always used a pressure gauge and never did a squeeze test (like this former ball boy indicated they do), why would the Packers ever try to slip over-inflated footballs through the cracks?

Another question worth asking: If the NFL tried to run a sting operation against the Patriots, shouldn’t they have informed their officials and told them to be diligent?

Perhaps this is one reason Patriots owner Robert Kraft basically called out the NFL on Monday night. Let’s assume for a second that Toucher and Rich’s report is accurate. If that’s the case, it would be up to the fans to decide if the Patriots cheated. Most people have already made up their minds about Deflategate and the evidence is irrelevant. To me, you can’t really cheat with footballs that were inspected by an official and approved for play.

This article first appeared on Larry Brown Sports and was syndicated with permission.


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