Amid all the hoopla over the possibility that the New England Patriots deliberately deflated footballs to gain an advantage in the AFC Championship Game last Sunday, the Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud has published a column reminding us that similarly shady schemes have happened before. And not too long ago either.
In his piece, Stroud writes about former Tampa Bay quarterback Brad Johnson, who admitted in 2012 that he paid $7,500 for ball handlers to scuff and wear in the balls before Super Bowl XXXVII, per Johnson’s preference.
"I paid some guys off to get the balls right," Johnson told the Tampa Bay Times in 2012. "I went and got all 100 footballs, and they took care of all of them."
Johnson threw for 215 yards with two touchdowns in the game, and Tampa Bay beat the Oakland Raiders 48-21.
Of course, what a Tampa Bay quarterback did in 2003 doesn’t indict the New England Patriots in 2015. But it does show that the NFL has a history of players tampering with balls in the league’s most important game without the NFL noticing.
This is the the second “-gate” of Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s career. In 2007, Belichick was embroiled in the very originally named “Videogate,” in which his team was found to have been illegally stealing other teams’ defensive signals.
ESPN reported Tuesday that the NFL has found 11 of the 12 balls used by the Patriots during the AFC Championship Game on Sunday were under-inflated. The Patriots will face off against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Feb. 1.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article mistakenly said ESPN reported on the NFL's findings Thursday night. It reported the news Tuesday night.