FOX Sports has learned that the NFL has zeroed in on a New England Patriots locker-room attendant in connection with the scandal of improperly inflated footballs used in the AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.
The person of interest was already interviewed by the league. The NFL is trying to determine whether any wrongdoing by this individual occurred, sources tell FOX Sports.
There is surveillance video showing the attendant taking the footballs from the official’s locker room into another room at Gillette Stadium before bringing them out to the field, sources tell FOX Sports.
The NFL confiscated 11 of 12 footballs at halftime that were under the league-mandated air pressure of 12.5 PSI. The league has since launched an investigation into the matter.
Using an underinflated football can provide a competitive advantage by being easier to grip and throw, especially in the type of rainy weather conditions that surrounded the AFC title game.
New England head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady both have proclaimed innocence and said they were unaware how the footballs became underinflated.
"At no time was there any intent whatsoever to try to compromise the integrity of the game or to gain an advantage," Belichick said in an unscheduled availability on Saturday afternoon.
"Quite the opposite: we feel like we followed the rules of the game to the letter," he said. "We try to do everything right. We err on the side of caution. It’s been that way now for many years. Anything that’s close, we stay as far away from the line as we can."
Brady answered questions about the incident on Thursday.
"I didn’t alter the ball in any way," Brady said. "I have a process before every game where I take the footballs I want to use for the game. Our equipment guys do a great job breaking the balls in for the game. Our equipment guys have a process they go through."
The Patriots left Boston on Monday — hours before a massive snowstorm was due to hit the Northeast — to head to Arizona to prepare for their Super Bowl XLIX showdown with the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.