As the so-called “DeflateGate” scandal rages on, after a report that National Football League investigators found 11 of the 12 footballs used by the New England Patriots in last Sunday’s AFC Championship game demolition of the Indianapolis Colts were improperly underinflated, one former Super Bowl quarterback who has actually admitted tampering with balls says that there was “no wrongdoing” when he did it.
Brad Johnson, 46, was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback in Super Bowl XXXVII, played on January 26, 2003, at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. Johnson admitted in 2010 that he paid two ballboys $7,500 to tamper with the 100 brand new footballs used in that game, prior to the kickoff.
“I paid some guys off to get the balls right,” Johnson admitted to Tampa Bay Times sportswriter Rick Stroud. “I went and got all 100 footballs, and they took care of all of them.”
Unlike in other regular season and playoff games, in which each team supplies 12 of its own footballs in addition to six supplied by the league solely for kicking plays, in the Super Bowl, the NFL itself supplies all of the footballs, a total of 100, which may not be touched by personnel on either team until a ball enters the game.
Tampa Bay easily defeated the Oakland Raiders in that Super Bowl, 48-21, with Johnson throwing 18 completed passes in 34 attempts for 215 yards and two touchdowns, with just one interception. But Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon threw five interceptions in the game.
Johnson’s admission of ball-tampering passed largely unnoticed in 2010, but resurfaced this week in light of the DeflateGate allegations against the New England Patriots.
The former NFL quarterback now says that even though his actions clearly violated NFL rules, they involved “no wrongdoing” on his part.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Johnson said Wednesday, when asked to comment on his five-year-old admission by The Tampa Tribune newspaper. “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.”
The NFL has yet to issue an official confirmation on the report that it found 11 of 12 Patriots footballs to have been underinflated, saying only that it continues to investigate the so-called DeflateGate allegations.