Five weeks ago today, lawyer Ted Wells said that the #DeflateGate investigation, which launched six weeks ago today, will require “at least several more weeks.”
Currently, there’s no indication how many more days, weeks, or months will be required.
The topic was sparked by an image that has been floating around of what has been made to look like the cover page and a portion of the table of contents of the Ted Wells report. But the headline “Executive Summary and Loss of Draft Pick Compensation” gives it away as a hoax, because Ted Wells won’t be determining any penalties to be imposed on the Patriots.
Looking at the situation more broadly, the notion that any penalties will be imposed seems to be a little far-fetched, absent a confession or smoking-gun proof. It’s become more and more clear that the NFL doesn’t properly secure and handle footballs during games, as evidenced by the Combine week clusterfudge from ESPN, with competing reports from Kelly Naqi and Adam Schefter that required a psychic, a cartographer, and/or a Sherpa to harmonize.
Then there’s the possibility/reality that other teams may be tinkering with footballs. As one source explained it to PFT last month, however, the Wells investigation won’t be considering whether and to what extent other teams have tampered with footballs.
No investigation is needed to determine that one or two teams have done it. Recently.
Specifically, ball boys used sideline heaters to warm footballs during a late-November, 12-degree game between the Vikings and Panthers at the open-air stadium Minnesota is using until its new indoor facility opens. Apparently, footballs used by both teams were being heated that way.
“Somebody told me [Carolina’s] ball boys were doing it,” coach Mike Zimmer said, via ESPN.com.
So did NFL V.P. of game operations Mike Kensil swoop down on the sidelines with a meat thermometer as the first step in an extended inquisition? Well, no. Instead, the NFL acknowledged the situation, explained that it’s not permitted, and indicated an intent to remind other teams to not do this during the winter months.
“You can’t do anything with the footballs in terms of any artificial, whether you’re heating them up, whether it’s a regular game ball or kicking ball, you can’t do anything to the football,” NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino said at the time. “So that was noticed during the game, both teams were made aware of it during the game and we will certainly remind the clubs as we get into more cold weather games that you can’t do anything with the football in terms of heating them up with those sideline heaters.”
That seems like a fair and reasonable approach. But shouldn’t teams already have known that? And isn’t ignorance no excuse, anyway?
If the question of whether the Patriots tampered with footballs caused the Colts to complain to the league office and the league office to launch a full-blown investigation with the possibility of suspensions and lost draft picks, shouldn’t the Vikings and/or Panthers have faced swift and sudden justice from 345 Park Avenue for being caught literally red handed tampering with footballs by making them warmer?
While some Mona Lisa Vitos out there will say that heating the balls actually guards against natural deflation, the ball boys surely weren’t doing it to ensure that the footballs remained within the accepted range 12.5 to 13.5 PSI. They were doing it because someone thought the balls would be easier to handle if they were warmer than the 12-degree ambient air.
Regardless, the league’s relative nonchalance when it comes to the warming of footballs in violation of the rules becomes the latest puddle of mud in a minefield that the NFL created — and that Commissioner Roger Goodell eventually will have to find a path out of.