The AFC Championship Game between the Patriots and Colts remains best known for #DeflateGate, which has prompted the NFL to change the way it handles footballs. A lesser-known glitch from that same game also has prompted the league to make a change.
In a memo sent last week to all teams, the NFL informed all teams that it has changed the way it harvests game-used footballs for auction. Basically, the league office no longer will be doing the harvesting.
“NFL Auction employees will no longer carry jerseys and other game-used items with them from games,” the memo from Jeff Pash, Troy Vincent, and Anna Isaacson to all teams said in a memo that PFT has obtained. “Instead, when Auction employees are onsite, they will coordinate prior to the game with the club’s equipment manager and meet them postgame to photograph items to be provided for sale on NFL Auction. This will enable the items to be posted quickly on the Auction website to capitalize on timing and interest. In all cases, however, shipping will go directly from the club to The Hibbert Group.”
In January, former NFL employee Scott Miller removed a kicking ball from play in the first half of the AFC title game, sparking a chain of events that resulted in an erroneous ESPN report that the Patriots had tried to introduce an unapproved kicking ball into the game. Miller later was fired, as PFT reported in February.
The specific events, as chronicled in the Ted Wells report, remain unclear, but the Patriots were exonerated of any wrongdoing as to that specific portion of the investigation. Moving forward, there will be no room for confusion in matters of this nature, since NFL employees will not remove footballs or other game-used items from the game site, either during or after the contests. Instead, the teams will be sending the materials directly to the auction house that sells the items.
NFL employees will be responsible for taking photographs of items to be auctioned after the game, and then to compare the photos from the game site to photos taken by the auction house to ensure authenticity.
It still seems that the best way to ensure authenticity is to have an NFL employee physically remove the item and deliver it to the auction house. Apparently, however, there was a flaw in that process sufficiently fatal to prompt the NFL to completely abandon it.