Is Deflategate real? Could the accusations of the New England Patriots deflating footballs have long-term implications for one of the two teams in this year’s Super Bowl? According to a former NFL quarterback who played for seven teams, the “Deflategate” controversy is indeed real, at least in perception. But he says the practice is common and shouldn’t be any indicator about the Patriots’ ability to follow league rules.
Why? Because, according to Jeff Blake, every team in the league deflates game balls right before kickoff. And they’ve done it for decades.
Blake’s interview on a Nashville radio station is sure to be skewered by the NFL as little more than an attention grab during Super Bowl week. But if you listen to the sincerity in his voice, it appears he’s just saying it like it is.
“I’m just going to let the cat of the bag: every team does it, every game. It has been since I played,” Blake told the Midday 180 radio show. “When you take the balls out of the bag, they are rock hard. It’s too hard. Everybody puts the pin in and lets just enough air out of the ball that you can feel it a little better. But it’s not the point to where it’s flat. So I don’t know what the big deal is. It’s not something that’s not been done for 20 years.”
To be fair, Blake last played in the NFL in 2005, after a career that spanned 13 seasons with seven teams. All told, the former QB started 100 games, having spent the most time in Cincinnati with the Bengals. So his words certainly hold some heft.
However, the year after Blake retired, the NFL changed its rules so each team could provide its own game balls for officials to evaluate prior to kickoff. While Blake played, all balls were provided by the NFL, so it’s possible that deflating balls was more common during Blake’s career that it is today.
Indeed, most NFL quarterbacks have said that the New England Patriots deflating footballs would, in fact, be the exception rather than the rule. That’s their official stance, anyway. What they say privately may be a different matter, though understandable no QB has gone on the record as saying so.
In previous interviews during the season, at least one quarterback, the New Orleans Saints Drew Brees, has said he prefers softer balls. Brees said as much to ESPN’s Colin Cowherd. However, voicing a preference does not indicate whether a quarterback or team has actually deflated balls intentionally.