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Posted 1/27/15 (Tue)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

What is the National Football League going to do to hold the New England Patriots accountable for using deflated footballs in the AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Colts? That is the question that continues to haunt the league as the Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks square off on Sunday for Super Bowl 2015.
Should the Patriots have been banned from the Super Bowl? That obviously wasn’t going to happen, although there are many who believe that in light of the team creating an unfair, and illegal, advantage for themselves by playing with under-inflated footballs for two quarters of play, that would have been an appropriate penalty.
Or should the team be hit with a very hefty monetary fine, as well as be faced with the loss of draft picks for several years?
While the NFL says that they are going to do an investigation into the matter, it is obvious that 11 of 12 of the balls used by the New England Patriots were under-inflated. That is not a simple chance occurrence. It would be understandable if one ball was under-inflated, but 11 balls being precisely under-inflated to the same weight just doesn’t happen.
The Patriots coach, Bill  Belichick, and Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, both claim they have no idea how the under-inflated balls got onto the playing field. Obviously, they are going to make the case that they didn’t know anything about it. To do anything otherwise, would be akin to a bank robber, who is holding the money taken from a bank, saying he has no idea how the money got into the bag.
But the fact is that the Patriots cheated in the AFC Championship game. NFL officials checked the PSI of all footballs used by both teams two hours before the game. At halftime, New England’s footballs were found to be two-to-three pounds lighter. You can’t blame the cold weather on causing the balls to deflate because the footballs used by the Colts were properly inflated. So the obvious answer is that someone deflated the balls. And that somebody was associated with the New England Patriots.
And to say that many of the players on the Patriots team didn’t know that the balls were under-inflated during the first half of play just defies logic. These players have held a football in their hands since they were kids. Surely, the center, who handles the ball before every snap would have known that the ball felt a little softer than it should. And so should have Brady, who takes every snap and grips the ball to either throw a pass or hand it off to a running back. And the list of Patriot players that handled those under-inflated balls goes on and on. The running backs knew and so did the receivers.
For two full quarters of play, virtually every New England Patriot player knew that they had an advantage in that cold AFC Championship game. Whether or not it was enough of an advantage to enable the Patriots to win will be the great unknown. But, with an under-inflated football being easier to throw and easier to catch, one could safely argue, they had an unfair advantage over the Colts.
And keeping the playing field level is what NFL rules, such as making sure that all footballs are properly inflated, are all about.
The NFL needs to come down hard on the New England Patriots. If the NFL can basically take away the career of a player, like Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson because he disciplined his son with a switch, then what punishment should the league impose on an organization like the Patriots that, by all accounts, knowingly violated the rules in such an important game as the AFC Championship?
Playing hard to win is one thing. Creating explosive offenses and dominating defenses is what football is about. But, cheating and breaking the rules to win is not what football should become.
Football fans across the country will not be the only ones who are waiting and watching for the NFL to reach judgement. So will the owners, coaches and players of all of the rest of the professional football teams. If the NFL goes light on the Patriots, the NFL could very well open the floodgates for every other team to do what they can to bend the league’s rules to their benefit.