Suffolk coaches sound off on “DeflateGate”

Published 10:15 pm Thursday, January 29, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX looms, and amid discussions of whether or not Tom Brady and company can succeed against Seattle’s Legion of Boom, commentators will continue to discuss the subject of underinflated footballs.

The NFL is currently conducting an investigation to determine if the New England Patriots intentionally deflated footballs below the limit of league rules for Jan. 18’s AFC Championship Game.

The Patriots easily defeated the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 in the game, and it has been widely opined that underinflated footballs — which can be easier to throw, catch and carry — had little impact on a contest between unequal teams.

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However, any intentional effort to break the rules represents a threat to the integrity of the game, and the Patriots have been caught rule-breaking before, helping make the issue a prominent one.

Suffolk’s high school football coaches recently gave their perspective on the issue.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy coach Lew Johnston’s initial reaction was to quote William Shakespeare: “Much ado about nothing.”

But he did indicate punishment should be handed out if the investigation finds someone guilty and that this punishment should occur after the Super Bowl, at this point.

Johnston had two key questions he raised regarding the controversy, though. Based on what he had seen in the media’s coverage, he asked why no one has pulled several players together on-air and tested them on whether they can detect the differences in footballs of various inflation levels.

While it may not have been done elsewhere prior, such a test took place Wednesday evening on Conan O’Brien’s TBS talk show. O’Brien asked his guest, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, to guess the PSI level of a couple of footballs.

Brees accurately guessed the first football to be 13 pounds per square inch and the second to be 11 PSI, though he said he would not be able to tell the difference throughout the course of a game when he is focused on reading the defense and throwing the ball.

“Why hasn’t anybody pointed the finger at the officials?” Johnston asked, raising another question. “They’re handling that ball every play.”

He was not sure whether any deflation was done on purpose, but he assured, “You can tell when the ball doesn’t have enough air in it.”

Nansemond River High School coach David Coccoli said he really did not have much of an opinion on what has now become known as “DeflateGate,” but he said, “I think it’s interesting news.”

He added, “It’s a known fact that quarterbacks like the ball a little lighter.”

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, who prefers an overinflated ball, is considered an exception.

“One thing I do know from playing football and coaching football is that the feel of a football is very important to a quarterback,” said Bryan Potts of Lakeland High School.

Tom Brady denied any involvement in deflating the footballs, but Potts said he thinks Brady had everything to do with it, not necessarily with intent to break the rules, though.

It was more to reach a level of comfort with the football, and in reaching that comfort zone, he broke a rule, Potts said. “I truly believe that.”

Both King’s Fork High School coach Joe Jones and Coccoli said the media has blown the situation out of proportion.

“I’m sure other teams are doing things that they’re not supposed to be doing either,” Coccoli said.

Referring to various domestic abuse scandals that have erupted involving players, Jones said, “The NFL’s not had a real good year of public relations and a pound and a half of deflated footballs pales in comparison to some of the other stuff that they’ve been dealing with.”

He said any discipline should come after the Super Bowl.