Many have said through the #DeflateGate controversy that a more stringent standard has applied to the Patriots because the Patriots are The Patriots. And there’s some support for that school of thought.
As PFT noted back in March, the Panthers and Vikings were caught (literally) red-handed in late November, with ball boys using sideline, jet-engine, gates-of-hell heaters to warm footballs on a cold day in Minnesota.
So what happened to the Panthers and Vikings? They and the rest of the league received a reminder that this kind of thing is frowned upon.
“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.”
The Patriots case is different, in part because the text messages between John Jastremski and Jim McNally suggest that the deflation scheme had been in place for a while. There also was an element of skullduggery to the New England situation, with footballs being secretly deflated to make them easier to handle by quarterback Tom Brady.
Still, when the NFL became aware of what the Panthers and Vikings were doing, the NFL said, “Stop it.” The NFL didn’t do that with respect to the Patriots, opting to set a trap in lieu of alerting them to the concern and warning them to knock it off as the AFC title game approached.