IRVING, Texas — Giants president and co-owner John Mara said Wednesday he doesn’t believe the possible use of deflated footballs in a Dec. 4 game against the Steelers rises to the level of needing to be investigated.
“Much ado about nothing,” Mara said at the NFL’s annual December owners meeting.
Mara said he called Steelers owner Art Rooney II after a Fox Sports report last Sunday that the Giants informed the league that their equipment staffers believed the Steelers used at least one underinflated football during the game. The discovery was made after Giants cornerback Eli Apple intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass in the second half of a 24-14 loss at Heinz Field. He declined to offer any further details of the incident.
The NFL said in a statement on Sunday that the game officials followed protocol with the footballs, and that the Giants did not issue a formal complaint. Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday after a one-day owners meeting that proper procedures were followed and that there was no reason for any follow-up investigation.
“We went back to look to make sure the protocols were followed properly. They were,” Goodell said. “The Giants had asked us about it during the game. We went back, we checked that. They were properly followed. All of the league protocols being properly followed, there’s no further follow-up on that. The teams didn’t follow up, we didn’t follow up any further because we were comfortable that the protocols were followed.”
Goodell added that the officials tested the balls before the game and maintained possession of them throughout the game. On two occasions, however, Goodell said the Giants came into possession of the footballs after turnovers; in those cases, the teams get to keep them, and they are not used for the remainder of the game.
The NFL sanctioned the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady last year after conducting an investigation into whether the team used deliberately deflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game against the Colts on Jan. 18, 2015. Brady was suspended four games, and the Patriots were fined $1 million and were forced to surrender a first-round pick in 2016 and a fourth-rounder in 2017.
Brady’s suspension, which was to take effect at the start of the 2015 season, was successfully appealed in the U.S. Second District Court in New York. But the league prevailed in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Brady in July announced on Facebook that he would accept the suspension and not appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. He missed the first four games of the 2016 season.
“I agree,” Rooney said after being told of Mara’s comments about the alleged use of an underinflated football. Rooney said he “doesn’t expect much to come of it.”
Profootballtalk.com reported that two footballs in question from the Giants-Steelers game were measured at 11.8 and 11.4 PSI. The minimum PSI allowed is 12.5. The Patriots have consistently argued that footballs naturally deflate in colder weather, and that the team did not purposely deflate them in the conference championship game. Goodell said the footballs were measured by the Giants with a different device than the one used by game officials.
Rooney, when asked about whether he was concerned about any comparisons between this incident and the alleged use of deflated footballs by the Patriots, said he wasn’t prepared to do so.
“You’re telling me something that I don’t know anybody has established what the PSI is of the balls in our game,” Rooney said. “I can’t really make that comparison.”
Rooney said he did not ask his players or coaches about the issue but added the NFL now has a much more active involvement in securing game balls after the Patriots’ Deflategate controversy. The PSI in all game balls is measured before games, and officials maintain possession of the footballs until shortly before kickoff.
“I don’t think people seem to understand that we don’t have custody of the balls anymore,” Rooney said. “We don’t have much of an opportunity to deflate them. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if something happened, and if it happened, I don’t know what happened, so not much I can say about it.”
Asked whether he thought the matter is over, Rooney said, “It’s over, as far as I’m concerned.”