PHOENIX -- Some of the lingering questions I've had about the process in which referees test and document air pressure in footballs were answered today. It helps add more context to the NFL's investigation into underinflated New England Patriots footballs.
As written in Sunday's "quick-hit thoughts" entry, these were things that piqued curiosity:
Who is there when the footballs are tested?
Is air pressure in each ball documented?
How are they tested?
With the NFL holding a news conference with vice president of officiating Dean Blandino, Super Bowl XLIX referee Bill Vinovich and NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent on Thursday, we learned some answers to those questions.
Blandino said he couldn't get into many details with the investigation ongoing. Afterwards, in a side session with a handful of reporters, he said referee Walt Anderson "gauged" the footballs himself, which he has done throughout his career.
Blandino added that the specific air pressure in each football, which is required to be between 12.5 and 13.5, is not documented. The balls are simply either approved or disapproved pre-game.
In the news conference, Blandino said, "We did review what happened pre-game. From everything that we reviewed and all their information we had, was the balls were properly tested and marked prior to the game. Then [there] was an issue that was brought up during the first half. A football came into question and then a decision was made to test the football."
Said Vinovich, "We test them. It's 12.5 to 13.5. We put 13 in every ball. ... Dean tested a couple in the office and had one underinflated and one to specs, and you really couldn't tell the difference unless you actually sat there and tried to squeeze the thing or did some extraordinary thing. If somoene just tossed you the ball, especially in 20 degree weather, you're going to pretty much play with the ball. They are going to be hard. You're not going to notice the difference."
As it relates to the Patriots' investigation, here is one follow-up thought based on this information: The fact there is no official documentation in the process is significant.
Essentially, it sets up a situation where the NFL has to take the official at his word that all footballs were tested properly and there were no breakdowns in the process, either with the official himself or a member of the league's security team.