Thanks to Deflategate, we’ll never look at footballs and air pressure the same way again. But the average official is probably still okay with teams preparing their own footballs for games. Why? Because it beats the old way of officials having to do it themselves, which Mike Pereria said was “a pain in the butt.”
“It changed in 2006 when we let the teams prepare their own footballs,” the Fox Sports NFL Rules Analyst and former Vice President of Officiating said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “But prior to that, when I was on the field – and I was a rookie in 1996 – I’d go into the locker room and the first thing I’d do is go into the shower with all the footballs and I’d have to wipe the red film that they have on all the balls down, use brushes to try to get them to a tackiness level. It was the job of the officials to do that. And of course along with that, we had brand new footballs, but we would make sure that they were inflated between the 12.5 and 13.5 pounds – a rule that hasn’t changed since the NFL rules officially became their own in 1931.
“So it was a big deal,” Pereira continued. “Since then, with the teams taking care of their own footballs, when the footballs came into the locker room, really all you did was test the pressure and make sure that the ball met the qualities of what we always use the terminology of it looked new or nearly new. If it didn’t, if it had been overly prepared or it had been in a game the week before – which you could tell by an official’s mark – and it was too scuffed up, then we’d throw it out and ask for another.”
Quarterbacks aren’t the only ones who prefer their footballs a certain way, either. Believe it or not, kickers can be just as finicky, if not more finicky, about texture and pressure.
“I will say this,” Pereira said. “With the advent of the kicking ball – because kickers were scuffing balls and doing things to footballs that were crazy, and field goal accuracy was getting so good we took the balls away from the kickers. When we did that, we brought in a kicking ball coordinator, and he got involved in the preparation of the football and kind of controlling the football. I do think that the process, over time, became a little bit more lax. In the olden days, we used to carry them out ourselves because we didn’t have anybody to do it. But now the kicking-ball guy would take them out, and it really has gotten – up until this coming year – a little bit more lax. It won’t be lax to start next year.”
Pereira does not believe the NFL will reverse course and once again ask officials to prepare footballs. He does, however, think testing procedures could become a little more stringent and a little more frequent.
“We thought it was a reasonable suggestion (when teams wanted to do it themselves),” Pereira recalled. “We thought as long as it was the Wilson football and it met the (standards), then if we were preparing it, why not let them prepare it? We all know that this is an offensive league, and if you make the quarterback comfortable with his footballs, I think it’s fine. When we talked about it, I can’t remember the discussion going for more than 20 minutes. And we all said, ‘Yeah, that’s fine.’ We never anticipated that a club might have a needle on the sidelines and take air out of the football or have a pump and put more in. We didn’t really talk about that and didn’t think about that. But obviously when you hear the conversation, it’s not just the Patriots alone that have doctored up the footballs or manipulated the footballs during the game. But in the end, I guess I might still ask the great question: How big of a deal is it?”