Protocols. The word just oozes efficiency and competence, doesn’t it? The NFL’s operations guys - with VP of Officiating Dean Blandino standing out front – has promised new protocols for the 2015 season so that there’s no ball-tampering prior to games similar to what the league believes happened with the Patriots.
So far, though, it hasn’t seemed a priority for the NFL to tell its officials what steps they’re supposed to take to make sure footballs never dip below the critical level of 12.5 PSI, regardless of the elements.
According to the Twitter account of refereeing gadfly @FootballZebras, the league’s officials had a recent clinic and there were “no discussions about game balls at officiating clinic this wknd. New procedures for '15 not yet known."
Given the NFL’s hysterical response to six under-inflated footballs – kicked off by the in-game testing of a Patriots football by Colts equipment man Sean Sullivan – documenting PSI measured with a calibrated gauge prior to a game, at halftime and after the game should be a sweeping new initiative for the league and its officials.
It’s an issue which led to a multi-million dollar investigation, resulted in the suspension of Tom Brady, the docking of draft choices for the Patriots and a $1 million fine and has dominated the offseason. Honestly, if the league had directed this level of effort and intensity to finding out whether concussions could have treble impact on its employees, imagine the lives it could have saved or improved?
Still, despite the promised “protocols” to be put in place, Blandino has been unable to share what exactly the NFL proposes to have its officials do. He said teams will learn of them during training camp. It would be a great public service by the league if it would let networks perhaps put up a graphic before the game telling what the PSI levels of each ball is. Then, after the balls are measured again at halftime, those numbers could be shared with the viewers. That would really help people understand just what the Patriots did or didn’t do in January.
That won’t happen, of course. And I’m not holding my breath anticipating the NFL sharing any of the PSIs they find in 2015.
It leads a cynic to think that competently measuring, documenting and tracking the PSI of game balls isn’t that big a deal to the NFL. That protecting PSI wasn’t the goal here, but “getting” the Patriots –- at the behest of the Colts equipment man -– was. And that all the games played with balls under 12.5 PSI in the past will be followed by thousands of games played with under-inflated balls in the future thanks to Mother Nature. On just one night did it matter. That’s a helluva protocol.