As the #DeflateGate controversy continues to overtake Super Bowl XLIX, the first tangible evidence other than footballs being underinflated (which the NFL has acknowledged) emerged Monday, when Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported that a Patriots employee took a bag of football that had been inspected and approved by officials into a separate area. That individual has become, per Glazer’s report, a “serious person of interest” as to the question of how the footballs came to be underinflated.
As PFT reported last night, adding to Glazer’s bombshell, the separate area was a bathroom in which the employee spent approximately 90 seconds. The red state/blue state nature of the debate has caused those predisposed to assuming the Patriots are guilty to say it’s enough time to deflate the footballs. Those predisposed to assuming that this is a league- and/or media-driven witch hunt say the only leaking came from the guys urinary tract (or perhaps elsewhere).
Obviously, the report from Glazer shows an opportunity for foul play existed. And Glazer’s report became the first clear indication since this issue first arose of a chance by someone to do something to the “perfect” footballs as hand-selected by quarterback Tom Brady to make them even more perfect.
A separate question has emerged regarding whether a team employee should have even been taking the footballs on his own to the field without supervision. One source said it’s normal; another source believes it’s entirely abnormal. Regardless, Glazer’s report puts a Patriots employee in a room with a locking door alone with the footballs for, based on PFT’s addition to that report, approximately 90 seconds.
So can 12 (or in this case 11) footballs be deflated in that amount of time? One league source with extensive knowledge and experience in the NFL believes that 90 seconds provides enough time to do it — especially if the type of bag allowed the valves to be accessed without individually removing them. (The bag in the photo, for example, has a large zipper that when open permits quick access to the balls.)
The source called it as “easy” thing to do. “Needle in each ball for a couple of seconds,” the source said.
Indeed, if this is something that had been going on for some period of time, the employee would have developed a certain expertise in this regard, allowing him to do it quickly — which in turn would allow for the plausible argument to be made that there was no deflation but merely urination.
Is it conclusive evidence of tampering? Not without a camera in the bathroom or an admission from the employee. But it also becomes difficult to declare innocence, given that the contents of the surveillance video as first reported by Glazer reveal an employee of the Patriots taking the footballs into a place where, in theory, something could have been done to them.
That’s the most important thing to remember from Monday’s report. Whether it was 90 seconds or longer, whether it was the Patriots who surrendered the video or the NFL who found it, Glazer’s report shows an opportunity for tampering that had not previously been disclosed.