Countless football fans have called for penalties against the New England Patriots amid the “Deflategate” scandal, but multiple Seattle Seahawks players downplayed the incident this week ahead of Super Bowl XLIX. Chief among them was outspoken cornerback Richard Sherman, who told reporters he didn’t expect the Patriots to suffer any consequence that would affect football’s biggest game.
“If it’s against the rules, it’s against the rules,” Sherman said of the incident in Sunday's AFC Championship game, according to ESPN. “But it’s not going to have any effect... Nobody is going to get suspended [from the Super Bowl], and nothing’s going to happen. We’re gonna play this game. Whatever they did, the risk/reward was greater.”
An NFL investigation conducted after Sunday’s AFC Championship game between the Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts found that 11 of New England’s 12 game balls were inflated two pounds per square inch below levels required by the league. All NFL game balls must be inflated at 12.5 to 13.5 pounds per square inch.
Officials approved the Patriots’ game balls at a routine inspection held two hours and 15 minutes before kickoff, but the Colts noticed a disparity after linebacker D’Qwell Jackson intercepted a pass from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the game’s second quarter. Colts personnel alerted the game officials to their suspicion, which led to the NFL’s investigation.
The Patriots went on to defeat the Colts 45-7 to advance to a Super Bowl matchup against the Seahawks. Asked for his opinion, Sherman said the level of inflation in the Patriots’ game balls did not impact the AFC Championship’s outcome. “It didn’t have much effect on the [AFC Championship Game], if any,” he said.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson also downplayed the “DeflateGate” saga. “Just as long as the football has laces, I’m good to go,” he said.
Several former NFL quarterbacks described alteration of game balls as a routine occurrence. Quarterbacks often tailor the football to suit their individual preferences, they said.
“It really does seem totally ridiculous that this story has been blown so far out of proportion,” retired quarterback and current CBS broadcaster Boomer Esiason told CBS Sports. “If you look at the footballs that the quarterbacks are playing with and throwing for the last six or seven years, just realize that everybody is doing the same thing.”
The NFL has yet to formally comment on its “Deflategate” investigation. It’s unclear what penalties, if any, the Patriots will face if found guilty of deliberate wrongdoing. Under NFL rules, individuals who tamper with footballs after they are approved in pregame inspection can be fined up to $25,000, but other penalties could be instituted. The Patriots lost a first-round draft pick in 2008 after the NFL discovered head coach Bill Belichick had an assistant secretly videotape opposing teams’ defensive coaching signals. The incident became known as “SpyGate.”