Report: Ex-Bucs QB Johnson paid to have footballs scuffed before Super Bowl

Turns out, customizing footballs to the point of stretching the rules is no new development.

The New England Patriots are under fire after, according to ESPN, 11 of their 12 game balls in their AFC Championship Game victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday were found to be underinflated. But former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Brad Johnson has admitted that, about 12 years ago, he paid off two ball boys to scuff all 100 footballs made for Super Bowl XXXVII.

"I paid some guys off to get the balls right," Johnson told the Tampa Bay Times. "I went and got all 100 footballs, and they took care of all of them."

Johnson went on to tell the newspaper that the price tag for the act was $7,500. The Bucs routed the Oakland Raiders 48-21 in San Diego, and Johnson completed 18 of 34 passes for 215 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

There are some differences between Johnson’s act and what the Patriots reportedly did, though. The Raiders also used the footballs supposedly scuffed in Super Bowl XXXVII, while the Colts were limited to their allotment of game balls when on offense in the most recent AFC Championship Game. And Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon threw five interceptions in the blowout loss, so it’s not like the scuffed balls prevented the Bucs’ swarming defense from suffocating the Raiders.

On Wednesday, Johnson told the Tampa Tribune he doesn’t have regrets.

"There was no wrongdoing on my part, nothing malicious, I didn’t do anything wrong," Johnson said to the Tribune.

"I thought it was right for everybody because I heard all those quarterbacks, from (Joe) Montana to (Troy) Aikman, talk about it and how all those (Super Bowl) balls are so slick.

"So I was trying to help the game for everybody. I never got to touch the balls before the game, only just before kickoff, which was always the case no matter what game it was."

Still, Johnson’s admission shows that the search to gain a strategic advantage with footballs is nothing new.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.