It has been well over a year since ‘Deflategate’ began, when the NFL alleged that the New England Patriots were observed to have game footballs in their possession that at halftime measured below the accepted PSI pressure. Ideal Gas Laws and all of that aside, more than a season hence, we are still feeling the repercussions of that incident.
Beyond simply the fact that Tom Brady’s pending four-game suspension—which he was supposed to serve in 2015, including a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers—continues to hang in the balance, we also have a new rule on the books for us to digest pertaining to the handling and PSI of footballs.
According to Pro Football Talk, the prior wording of Rule 2, Section 2, providing for the relevant legislation regarding the pre-game handling of footballs, called for both the home team and the visiting team to make 12 footballs available for testing and PSI measurement two hours and 15 minutes prior to kickoff.
In addition, the home team was also required to present an additional set of 12 footballs to serve as backup footballs, which were also tested and measured in order to ensure that they adhere to the rules, among them that not football in play measure below 12.5 PSI. visiting teams were only permitted a second set of footballs in outdoor stadiums.
The rule has shifted slightly, and also quietly, so that now both the home team and the visiting team must submit a total of 24 footballs, and do so two and a half hours prior to kickoff, though there does not appear to be any other sort of change as to how the footballs are handled either by the team or by the officials prior to the game.
If this was a move in direct response to the Deflategate controversy, then it would seem to do little to affect the actual root of the problem that was alleged in that case, which was that team employees tampered with the PSI of the footballs after they were tested and measured.
There was no clarification or change with regards to the manner in which PSI measurements were taken or anything of that nature, nor has there been any indication as to whether or not the league now acknowledges the effects of the Ideal Gas Law on footballs in certain environments, and whether they allow for footballs below the prescribed PSI threshold if it is within the limits predicted by the Law.
At the very least, however, the provision of an additional set of footballs for both teams no matter the environment gives the officials greater leeway to remove footballs from the field of play that they suspect to have failed to adhere to the guidelines.