In the days before they played the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, the Colts were alerted by the Ravens to pay special attention to potential problems with the game balls.
Colts equipment manager Sean Sullivan sent an email to G.M. Ryan Grigson before the AFC Championship saying that the Ravens’ special teams coach, Jerry Rosburg, had called Colts head coach Chuck Pagano to warn him of potential problems with game balls. According to the email, the Ravens had problems in their own playoff loss to the Patriots the week before, and urged the Colts to be careful.
“Two concerns came up as of yesterday on footballs at New England,” Sullivan wrote, via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. “First off the special teams coordinator from the Baltimore Ravens called Coach Pagano and said that they had issues last week at the game that when they were kicking (Baltimore that is) they were given new footballs instead of the ones that were prepared correctly.”
Sullivan then added that the Patriots are known to play fast and loose with the rules regarding the game balls.
“As far as the gameballs are concerned it is well known around the league that after the Patriots gameballs are checked by the officials and brought out for game usage the ballboys for the patriots will let out some air with a ball needle because their quarterback likes a smaller football so he can grip it better, it would be great if someone would be able to check the air in the game balls as the game goes on so that they don’t get an illegal advantage,” Sullivan wrote.
If it was “well known around the league” that the Patriots were breaking the rules about game balls, at Tom Brady’s request, it’s baffling that it never became public until Deflategate broke out after the AFC Championship Game. But Sullivan’s email makes clear that this was an issue the Colts were bracing for heading into the game.