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National

Will 'Deflategate' Let The Air Out Of Super Bowl Hype?

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Even with the Super Bowl coming up, all the football talk this week wasn't about the game, it was about the ball.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

BILL BELICHICK: In my entire coaching career, I have never talked to any player, staff member about football air pressure.

GREENE: OK, that's New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. His team allegedly used footballs that weren't inflated to league standards last weekend. Lots of fans have wondered how the Patriots could have gotten away with this. And also, what sort of advantage this would give them anyway. NPR's Jacob Pinter looked for answers.

CATO JUNE: It's pig skin. It's nice and tough.

JACOB PINTER, BYLINE: That's former NFL Pro Bowler Cato June holding a football pumped up to 12 PSI, which is within the NFL's regulation pressure.

JUNE: You definitely have concentrate - those quarterbacks that throw the ball with a lot of velocity. And, you know, it can beat you up a bit if you allow it to.

PINTER: June puts that ball down and picks up another one. It's pumped with less pressure, and it has a little more give when he squeezes it.

JUNE: You'll notice it right away because it's softer, and it will fall into your hands, and you'll be able to grip the football whether you are throwing it or catching it.

PINTER: If the Patriots did cheat in their 45 to 7 thumping of the Indianapolis Colts, that's probably why they did it. An NFL investigation reportedly found that 11 of the 12 balls supplied by the Patriots in the first half were inflated below league standards. Longtime NFL referee Scott Green says that if those reports are true...

SCOTT GREEN: I'd say something was going on.

PINTER: The league does supply footballs used in kicking plays. But the ones used in the rest of the game and supplied by the teams. Each side provides a dozen. Referees check all of those balls right before kickoff. So assuming the system works, every ball in the game has the ref's stamp of approval. Plus, officials handle the footballs during the game. They can take them out of play if they get too muddy or a little ragged or if they are underinflated.

GREEN: He would probably be telling the ballboy to get this ball out of the game. We don't want to use this.

PINTER: Almost a decade ago, Cato June won a Super Bowl with the Colts, the team New England clobbered last week. He's skeptical the ball made that much of a difference.

JUNE: It did kind of (bleep) you off a bit because, like - really? Really? You guys are going to deflate the balls, and you're going to beat us like that?

PINTER: The NFL hasn't announced what, if any, punishment New England might face. And for now, the issue hasn't deflated Patriots fans' expectations for next week's Super Bowl. Jacob Pinter, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.