For a few hours Sunday, it appeared Deflategate II could be a real thing.
And while the league announced that two balls the Pittsburgh Steelers used during their Week 13 victory against the New York Giants were legal, I think it’s kind of crazy
It’s a rule, and an underinflated football is an advantage. It’s easier to catch. It’s easier to throw. Even if you go below the allowable range of 12.5 to 13.5 PSI, there’s a number in there where you can still get a really good grip and it still spins really nicely. Now, when you get down there into the 9s and 10s, then you almost can’t throw it. It won’t spin; it will just kind of flutter. It won’t go 30 yards. But, before that, in that illegal range, you can spin a really nice football.
But, for me, it goes back to 2005, when the NFL said, “Quarterbacks, go ahead and do whatever you want with the footballs.” The league should have included PSI then, as well.
Guys like what they like. Some guys wanted a flatter lace, some guys wanted a more raised lace. Some guys want it fairly new, some guys want it broken in. Every football is unique, kind of like a snowflake.
That’s when it was first an issue. I remember sitting at home in Houston and we got a fax of a letter signed by Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. They wanted to go to the commissioner and have an opportunity to get the game balls during the week and work with them. Before that, the footballs were brand new, right out of the box, and we wouldn’t get them until the day before the game.
When you grab a new football, there’s a waterproof coating on it that feels a little tacky, but in reality its’ very slippery and if you get any moisture on the ball it’s like throwing a wet Frisbee.
A huge majority of the league’s 32 quarterbacks signed that letter and we got the rule changed the next year to where you could use your own footballs. They had to be within a certain PSI range, but you could play with them, practice with them. We’d throw them into the ground and try to scuff them up to take that coating off of them.
There’s a science to it. We had equipment managers who would put them in a dryer. They’d wrap them in a moist towel, bring them back out, brush them, and put them back in the dryer again. They had a system for taking them from brand new out of the box to playable within 30 minutes. I know some teams, like the Giants, rub mud on them. They buy it specifically from that company that supplies the mud to Major League Baseball and they rub it all over the footballs, then throw them in the dryer and it kind of soaks in there and you have a ball broken in for game day.
It’s a crazy process, but if you were to go to any sporting goods store now and pick up an NFL football, it’s not even close to what they feel like.
We had equipment managers who would put them in a dryer. They’d wrap them in a moist towel, bring them back out, brush them, put them back in the dryer again. They had a system for taking them from brand new out of the box to playable within 30 minutes.
The first pass I threw in the NFL, it was a play we practiced all week. We were going to take a shot down the field. We were going play-action and Corey Bradford was going to run a straight go route. But it was a brand-new football, and this was my first experience with it. In the preseason, they let you use your own football. But in the regular season, we had a brand-new inaugural Houston Texans football. I dropped back to throw it, and the ball just slipped out of the side of my hand. We ended up getting a pass interference call because I underthrew Bradford by about 10 yards.
The PSI, for me is really not a big deal. It’s actually harder to throw a spiral with a ball that’s underinflated, but there’s a fine line between your grip pressure and what PSI you like in the football. I’d say for the most part, most quarterbacks like a little bit less pressure, on the low end, but you have to be careful because if you lose any then it’s not the same feel.
I know Aaron Rodgers likes it at the high end. He likes to throw a brick. I feel bad for his receivers, but guys like what they like. Some guys wanted a flatter lace, some guys wanted a more raised lace. Some guys want it fairly new, some guys want it broken in. Every football is unique, kind of like a snowflake.
But the only reason we’re even talking about it now is that one thing they didn’t address back in 2005 – the PSI. If they had done that, we wouldn’t have these issues.
As long as everybody can do it, I don’t see the harm in it. It’s not going to affect the game in any way, except for the better. Guys are going to make better catches. It will be easier to throw. And it’s a level playing field for everyone. That was kind of the one mistake the NFL made. As soon as they regulated that PSI, now you’ve got guys trying to bend the rules and trying to get it to where they want it.
Question of the week
From Deborah Jennings: When did you know for sure that Derek had a future in the NFL?
With Derek, nothing was really hard for him. I don’t remember him ever being bad at basketball – even when he could barely get the ball up to the rim, he was good at it. Throwing a baseball, I remember we put him out there at shortstop in T-ball – he had never played in his life – and he’s making backhanded stops and throwing guys out at first base from deep in the hole.
We started off playing Madden football together, because as much as he loved sports he was always playing some kind of video game and he started playing Madden a lot. I can remember sitting down and, we’re obviously 12 years apart so we didn’t have a lot in common, but we could get on there and it would be a fair fight. We couldn’t go in the backyard and play football against each other, but I could sit down with Madden and play against him and it was fun. I remember they had a practice mode where you could go in and I would take the defense and he would take the offense and I would kind of teach him coverages. He really liked that part of it. I’d come home from college and he would be sitting there and he’d be in a practice session, playing different coverages and seeing what routes beat certain coverages. It wasn’t super-realistic, but it was close enough to where you could get the feeling for what Cover 2 was and what Cover 3 was, and he knew what was good against certain coverages.
We went from that to starting to go through actual film and when I was in Houston he’d sit there and break down film with me. He’d come over for dinner and we’d sit there and break down the next game plan. It was basically the same thing we were doing on Madden, but we were doing it in real life now. That got him interested in the quarterback position and when he didn’t grow to be 6-foot-8 and he couldn’t play basketball, he gravitated toward quarterback.
David Carr is a former Fresno State quarterback, NFL No. 1 draft pick and Super Bowl champion. Now he’s an analyst for the NFL Network and writing a weekly column in collaboration with The Bee’s Robert Kuwada. The column is sponsored by Valley Children’s Hospital.
Win a football autographed by David Carr
Each week, David will answer one reader’s question in this column – and that lucky reader will receive an NFL football signed by David. Post your question as a comment on the column at www.fresnobee.com/sports/nfl.
Everyone who poses a question to David this season will be entered in a season-ending drawing – and the winner gets a personal appearance with David at a 2017 Fresno-area event.