All right, everyone grab a seat. The “DeflateGate” plot has just thickened.
According to reports, a New England Patriots locker-room attendant allegedly took footballs from the officials’ locker room to another room before bringing them to the field before the AFC Championship on Jan. 19.
Is this a big deal?
“Obviously the NFL thinks it’s a big deal,” NBC Sports NFL analyst Ross Tucker said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Otherwise they wouldn’t have leaked it to Jay Glazer that they think this is the guy. This is the quote-unquote person of interest. They had video of him with the balls, but before he went out onto the field, he went into a room. It was my understanding that the officials give the balls to the ball boys five, 10 minutes before the game starts. So I don’t know how he had time to take those balls into some room and do something. I also don’t know if that’s evidence in and of itself of impropriety. I guess it should bring about a lot of questions: What were you doing in that room? What’s in that room on game day?
“But maybe the NFL is going to look at it and say, ‘Hey, that gives us enough evidence that we know what happened with the balls at halftime. We know what happened with the balls when we handed them to your guy. We have him on video going into a room and now at halftime the balls were under-inflated.’ And the Patriots might say, ‘The guy just went in there to grab a water. He didn’t do anything wrong, and you can’t base anything on that.’
“So my guess? It feels like unless they have a video of the guy actually altering the footballs or they had a camera in that room, I still think we’re kind of back to a he-said, he-said in this one. I don’t know what that means for the NFL.”
Amy Lawrence agrees that this circumstantial video alone is a difficult burden of proof, but it’s still hard to believe that someone in the organization – especially a locker-room attendant – would take it upon himself to deflate game balls without anyone knowing about it. Or without anyone telling him to do so.
“I don’t think anybody believes that would be the case,” he said. “He’s not going to do something to the balls unless he knows that’s how Tom Brady wants them. Obviously Brady had to be in on it if that’s in fact what happened. And if that’s the case, I find it hard to believe that Bill Belichick would have no knowledge of this either.”
But that didn’t stop Patriots owner Robert Kraft from going on the offensive Monday, saying that the NFL will owe his franchise an apology if its investigation fails to uncover any wrongdoing.
“I’ll tell you what,” Tucker said. “With all the denials coming, it’s going to be very, very interesting if the NFL doesn’t have any more formal evidence than this (video). Because I’m just not sure this is enough.”