Patriots, Seahawks will give footballs to NFL officials on Friday, won't see them again until game
You can place bets on any number of unlikely potential occurrences during Sunday's Super Bowl, but there's one absolute lock going into the game - no team employee will be allowed to take a bag of footballs into a restroom for 90 seconds this time around.
As Deflate-gate continues to grip the national consciousness, the security around the footballs the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks will use during the game figures to be tighter than ever.
NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino acknowledged as much in a Thursday press conference, though he was vague about specific measures that might be taken.
"There will be some added security just because of the environment that we're in for this game," he said.
In regular-season and playoff games heading up to the Super Bowl, each team prepares 12 footballs to be used during play and gives them to game officials for inspection two hours and 15 minutes before kickoff.
Many more footballs are used during the Super Bowl, with balls taken out of play quickly so they can be auctioned off for charity and other uses. With that in mind, each team will submit 54 footballs on Friday to an NFL team led by Chicago Bears equipment manager Tony Medlin - ensuring a much more secure chain of custody than in previous games.
"We have them in our control, and then they're brought to the officials' locker room three hours before kickoff Sunday," Blandino said. "We inspect them, we gauge them and then basically approve or disapprove of the football."
Blandino demurred when asked if there will half-time inflation checks of the footballs Sunday.
"We'll plan accordingly," he said, "and if a situation comes up, we'll adjust."