The NFL has interviewed nearly 40 individuals as part of its ongoing investigation into allegations that 11 of 12 footballs the New England Patriots provided for use in last week's AFC Championship game did not meet air pressure standards, the league said in a statement released Friday. Investigators, led by NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash and third-party attorney Ted Wells, have yet to determine if the Patriots deliberately altered the footballs to gain a competitive edge.
“While the evidence thus far supports the conclusion that footballs that were under-inflated were used by the Patriots in the first half, the footballs were properly inflated for the second half and confirmed at the conclusion of the game to have remained properly inflated,” the statement said, according to NFL.com. “The goals of the investigation will be to determine the explanation for why footballs used in the game were not in compliance with the playing rules and specifically whether any noncompliance was the result of deliberate action,” the statement continued. “We have not made any judgments on these points and will not do so until we have concluded our investigation and considered all of the relevant evidence.”
The NFL’s statement added that Patriots officials “pledged their full cooperation and have made their personnel and other information available to us upon request.” No timetable was given for when the league’s investigation into “Deflategate” would conclude, though it vowed to continue to update the public on its progress.
League rules stipulate all game balls must be inflated at 12.5 to 13.5 pounds per square inch, subject to inspection by game officials two hours and 15 minutes before kickoff. The Colts’ coaching staff asked AFC Championship officials to inspect the Patriots’ game balls after Indianapolis linebacker D’Qwell Jackson intercepted a pass by New England quarterback Tom Brady in the game’s second quarter. The Patriots used 12 backup balls during the game’s second half, ESPN reported.
Patriots personnel, including Brady and head coach Bill Belichick, denied any wrongdoing Thursday in connection with “Deflategate” and pledged continued cooperation with the NFL’s investigation. Brady said he “didn’t alter the ball in any way.”
“I feel like I have always played within the rules,” Brady said during a press conference. “I would never break the rules.”