Report: New procedures for testing, monitoring footballs


The way that game footballs are prepared and monitored in the NFL has come under a great deal of scrutiny since the night of last season's AFC Championship Game between the Patriots and Colts. Now, a few days before the Patriots take the field for training camp, it's been reported that the procedures for preparing and keeping track of footballs have been changed. 

According to Mike Pereira of Fox Sports, there will be random testing of game footballs and changes to how footballs are monitored once they've been checked by game officials, but there will be no changes made to the legal levels of inflation of footballs. They will still be required to be inflated to at least 12.5 PSI and at most 13.5 PSI. 

Here's a summary of the changes made to the rules, per Pereira, former vice president of officiating for the NFL:

* Each team will be required to supply 24 footballs to the officials locker room -- 12 primary and 12 backup --€” two hours and 15 minutes prior to the game. Last season the home team had to submit 24 footballs prior to the game but the visitors only had to submit 12 footballs with an option to supply an additional 12 for use in outdoor stadiums.

* The referee will designate two members of his crew to conduct a pregame inspection to make sure all footballs meet the required specifications. Last season, the referee was the sole judge.

* The officials will number the balls 1-12. Last season, the balls were not numbered. 

* The officials will measure the PSI and record that measurement corresponding to the numbered ball. Last season, no such record was kept. 

* Any game ball within the allowable range of 12.5 to 13.5 PSI will be approved and the PSI level will not be altered. Any game ball determined to be over 13.5 PSI or under 12.5 PSI will either be deflated or inflated to 13.0 PSI. Last year there was no specific measurement of 13.0 required if an adjustment had to be made.

Another change made to the rules will be that the league-hired kicking-ball coordinator at each game will take custody of all game footballs once they've been approved until 10 minutes before kickoff. At that point, an entourage -- including the kicking-ball coordinator, a member of the officiating crew and a security guard -- will escort the footballs to the on-the-field replay station and the balls will be passed out to each team under the watchful eyes of league security representatives. 

Random games will be selected during the course of the season where game balls used in the first half will be collected at halftime, taken by the kicking-ball coordinator and a security representative to the locker room, and tested. Balls from both teams will be inspected and PSI measurements will be recorded by the same two members of the crew who inspected the balls before the game. Interestingly, once those game balls have been measured, they will be removed from play and backup balls will be used. At the ends of those randomly-selected games, all game balls will be tested with the results recorded. 

As far as Pereira is concerned, he said he believed all the adjustments to the rules are an overreaction.

"Checking the balls before the game and after the game would have been enough for me," he wrote. "The officials have approximately only six minutes in their locker room at halftime as it is. By the time they get off the field and then have to leave to notify the teams with a two-minute warning to get back on the field, that leaves them hardly enough time to catch their breaths. Now they have to measure 24 footballs at random games. Now instead of officials discussing their performance in the first half and getting ready for the second half, they'll be adjusting PSI's."

One element of the testing process that Pereira did not report on was how the air-pressure gauges will be used and if the gauges will be uniform. One of the concerns raised by the Wells Report in Context, released by the Patriots in response to the Wells Report, was that there were two different air-pressure gauges used to measure footballs at halftime of the AFC title game and both provided different readings.

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