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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The NFL is investigating the possibility that that New England Patriots purposely deflated footballs during Sunday night's AFC Championship game, NFL spokesman Michael Signora said.
The Patriots routed the Indianapolis Colts 45-7.
A reporter from Indianapolis was first to report the news of a story that was quickly dubbed "deflate-gate." In a series of tweets, Bob Kravitz of WTHR.com said, "A league source tells me the NFL is investigating the possibility the Patriots deflated footballs Sunday night. More to come."
Two minutes later, he tweeted, "I'm told at one point the officials took a ball out of play and weighed it. Should hear more tomorrow on this subject."
During his Monday morning radio appearance with Dennis & Callahan on WEEI, quarterback Tom Brady called the claim ridiculous.
“I think I've heard it all at this point,” Brady said, adding it was the last of his worries.
"I don't even respond to stuff like this,” Brady said.
Deflating a football makes it easier to throw and catch, especially in the rain, which was falling in buckets for portions of the second half.
According to the NFL rulebook, the home team is required to send 12 official game balls to referees more than two hours prior to kick off. The balls are tested for pressure. The rulebook also says the balls then remain under a referee's supervision until they are delivered to a ball attendant just before kickoff.
Here's the actual rule from the NFL rulebook: The home club shall have 36 balls for outdoor games and 24 for indoor games available for testing with a pressure gauge by the referee two hours prior to the starting time of the game to meet with League requirements. Twelve (12) new footballs, sealed in a special box and shipped by the manufacturer, will be opened in the officials' locker room two hours prior to the starting time of the game. These balls are to be specially marked with the letter "k" and used exclusively for the kicking game.
The game operations manual also notes that people who alter footballs or allow an unapproved football to be used in a game can be disciplined with fines or other punishments.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick says the team will cooperate fully with the NFL's investigation.
The Patriots will play Seattle for the NFL title on Feb. 1.