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#pounditFriday, February 23, 2024

Report: NFL tried to catch Patriots in the act with Deflategate

NFL-refs-underinflated-footballs

Believe it or not, the outrage surrounding Deflategate will eventually fizzle out. And when it does, no one will be surprised if the NFL comes out looking very bad.

According to ESPN’s Ed Werder, the NFL was warned before the AFC Championship Game about the New England Patriots potentially deflating footballs. So what did the league do with that information? They tried to catch the Patriots in the act of cheating.

If that report is true, whether or not the Patriots cheated may be irrelevant for the league itself. We all know the Patriots would have beaten the Indianapolis Colts regardless, but — as we wrote about before — running a sting operation would not be a good look for the NFL.

How would the NFL justify not confronting the Patriots before the game? Was it worth having a potentially uneven playing field in a playoff game just for the opportunity to nail Bill Belichick in the act?

Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reports that the Patriots believe internally that Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is the one who ultimately started the Deflategate mess. That would seem to indicate that the Colts were not suspicious of the Patriots under-inflating game balls back in November, as was previously reported.

During an appearance on NFL Network Friday, Harbaugh referred to Belichick as a “friend.”

“He’s been a great mentor, a great friend,” Harbaugh said. “I have the utmost respect for him. Bill Belichick is the greatest coach of our generation, without question. … They have a great team, they’re where they deserve to be, they’re where they belong and I just consider him my friend.”

Does that sound like a guy who tipped off the Colts about his good “friend” possibly cheating? No, but that doesn’t mean anything.

It would be hard to believe that the NFL wasn’t notified beforehand. The thought of a player or equipment manager discovering that a ball was under-inflated in the middle of a playoff game doesn’t make much sense. If the Patriots were warned by the NFL and still tried to pull some funny business, they’re idiots.

If the NFL compromised the integrity of the AFC Championship with a sting operation, they’re — once again — the biggest idiots of all. That will be especially true if the league has no evidence. Judging by some of the stuff Belichick said on Saturday, he seems confident that they don’t.

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