Wednesday marked another twist in the New England Patriots' Deflategate saga.
Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post cites ESPN's reporting that a now-fired NFL official sold one of the deflated footballs used by the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game:
The Boston Globe's Ben Volin provided more context in light of recent developments regarding the rules controversy:
However, the NFL would later release a statement refuting ESPN's report, per Hubbuch:
There are no details at this point as to how the football in question was sold.
This all traces back to a report by ESPN's Chris Mortensen, who stated that 11 of the 12 footballs New England used in its 45-7 romp over Indianapolis in the conference title game were deflated two pounds below NFL standards.
Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman weighed in on the latest report:
Head coach Rex Ryan, who moved from the New York Jets to the Buffalo Bills this offseason, believes the footballs had little to do with the Patriots' triumph, via CBSSports.com's Will Brinson:
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady outplayed his positional counterpart Andrew Luck in seizing the conference championship. Brady threw for three scores, while Luck completed just 12 of his 33 pass attempts against a staunch New England secondary.
The Patriots moved on to the Super Bowl to defeat the reigning champion Seattle Seahawks.
Even if Brady had some advantage in throwing deflated balls in the Indy game, LeGarrette Blount gashed the Colts for 148 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries. Blount's big day had nothing to do with the inflation of a football.
If an NFL official reportedly selling one of the footballs doesn't sabotage the investigation, the drama will nevertheless persist the longer the NFL takes to wrap up its Deflategate inquiry.
Deflategate will taint the Pats' latest Lombardi Trophy in some fans' eyes until the final details of the investigation are known.
New England has been a paragon of consistent winning amid the NFL's modern parity. But Spygate and Deflategate threaten to harm the franchise's overall legacy—whether any wrongdoing is ultimately found in this instance or not.