It’s been more than two weeks since anyone has advanced the ball on the question of whether the Patriots used intentionally deflated footballs in the AFC championship game. The latest twist has nothing to do with football inflation.
Kelly Naqi of ESPN.com reports that a Patriots locker-room attendant tried to introduce an unapproved kicking ball during the first half of the game between Indianapolis and New England. Investigator Ted Wells has interviewed the attendant, 48-year-old Jim McNally, regarding the situation.
McNally, a part-time employee of the Patriots, had been assigned to the officials’ locker room for the game. Alternate official Greg Yette became suspicious, according to Naqi, upon noticing that the football tendered by McNally lacked the “K” ball designation. Yette notified NFL V.P. of game operations Mike Kensil regarding McNally’s attempt to insert a non-“K” ball into the game.
In 1999, the NFL revamped the procedures for the handling of special-teams balls due to concerns that teams were tampering with the balls to enhance their flight on kicks and punts.
Previously, NFL V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent acknowledged that Colts G.M. Ryan Grigson had contacted Kensil during the AFC title game regarding concerns that the Patriots were using underinflated footballs on offense.
It’s unknown whether McNally is the same person who, as Jay Glazer of FOX Sports first reported, was spotted by a surveillance camera at Gillette Stadium taking a bag of footballs into a separate area of the venue. PFT thereafter reported that the separate area was a bathroom, and that the attendant spent roughly 90 seconds inside, with a bag of Patriots and Colts footballs. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media has since reported that the precise number was 98 seconds, and that the attendant was “elderly.”
In the days prior to the Super Bowl, Wells said that the investigation will take several more weeks. As explained during the NBC Super Bowl pregame show, the NFL has hired multiple scientists to conduct experiments regarding the impact of atmospheric conditions on football inflation and to duplicate perpetration activities that, according to Patriots coach Bill Belichick, caused the air pressure inside the footballs to change.