The catch rule prompted an invitation for Tuesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio to NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino. Recent reports about the use of computer chip technology fueled a separate discussion that created some news.
Blandino acknowledged that computer chips will be used in the preseason, and possibly on Thursday nights. In confirming that the chips won’t be used to monitor air pressure in footballs, he disputed a recent report from ESPN.com that the technology is available.
“The technology now is not available,” Blandino said. “It’s not something that we’ve discussed. We’re focusing on the protocol and the chain of custody and things like that before the game, so that’s not something that’s been discussed with the chip technology that’s being used.”
The disagreement could be a matter of semantics. Yes, technology exists to monitor air pressure in tires. But that doesn’t mean anyone has developed a device that would monitor air pressure inside a football in real time — and ideally alert game officials to a situation where the football is below 12.5 PSI or above 13.5 PSI.
Until that technology is developed and implemented, the only way to determine PSI levels will be to check the footballs manually. Blandino confirmed that the 2015 program of spot checks will be used again in 2016.
“No change to the guidelines, and so the officials will go through their normal protocol and testing footballs and marking them once they meet the requirements, and then there will be spot checks throughout the season,” Blandino said.
So I then decided to fish for a general acknowledgement that, at times, footballs are indeed below 12.5 PSI. So I asked Blandino if he had access to spot-check PSI numbers that have not yet been released publicly, and apparently never will be. Blandino said that the results of the spot checks were not provided to the officiating department.
“We kept track of the footballs pregame and then the spot check, that’s really NFL Security is involved in that,” Blandino said. “So on the officiating side, we weren’t involved in the PSI and that part of it. We really were focusing on the chain of custody and the protocol and who had access to the footballs and how they were getting from point A to point B before the game.”
So the information was obtained by NFL Security and not disclosed?
“Correct,” Blandino said. “NFL Security would log that information and that’s how the procedure took place.”
This explanation seems to conflict with the document setting forth the document explaining the new game-day procedures regarding periodic spot checks: “All game ball information will be recorded on the Referee’s Report, which must be submitted to the League office by noon on the day following the game.”
The PSI numbers obtained during the spot checks apparently weren’t submitted. Which possibly was done to ensure that PSI information the NFL won’t be releasing publicly also won’t be leaked.