Remember, if you can, back a whole three days ago, before Marshawn Lynch conquered America: it's tough to believe now, but there used to be a big scandal about deflated footballs or something. (It's hard to recall the specifics.) The NFL is taking no chances on a repeat of the controversy. Nobody is getting to the batch of balls that will be used in the Super Bowl.
"There will be some added security just because of the environment we're in for this game," said NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino. What might that entail? An armored convoy? Rooftop snipers? A double-knotted drawstring on the ballbag? Blandino did not specify, probably to avoid giving any edge to Bill Belichick and his suave but mismatched team of specialists, looking to pull off the heist of a lifetime.
One thing's for sure: if the Patriots (or "a rogue ballboy") do get to these puppies, they're going to need more than 90 seconds. Instead of the 12 balls each team customarily gets to rough up to its specifications—within the rules, of course—New England and Seattle will each have 54 balls in play. Why so many? The NFL get to auction them off as game-used Super Bowl footballs, with at least some of the haul going to league charities.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Blandino—who used to be a stand-up comedian!—said the league plans to review its pregame football preparation policies for next season. It could consider something similar to the chain of command for these 108 very special Super Bowl footballs, where the teams have a day to break them in, and then for the final two days before the game they remain in the possession of an independent ballkeeper, in this case Bears equipment manager Tony Medlin.
Another possible change in policy, if the NFL considers Ballghazi a real problem and not just a minor embarrassment to paper over: actually measuring the pressure of balls before games. Before the AFC Championship, and presumably before every game, the referee merely approved or disapproved the footballs, without logging the psi readings. We'll never know if or how much the Patriots' balls were deflated between inspections.