The Baltimore Ravens deny they tipped off the Indianapolis Colts about underinflated footballs before the AFC championship game.
Court papers released Tuesday in New England quarterback Tom Brady’s lawsuit against the NFL over his four-game suspension show that the Ravens contacted the Colts about deflated footballs used in Baltimore’s playoff loss to the Patriots the previous week. But the Ravens said Wednesday that was not true.
“Prior to the AFC championship game, no one from the Ravens talked to the Colts about deflated footballs,” the Ravens said in a statement. “We knew nothing of deflated footballs. (Coach) John Harbaugh has been consistent in his answers to reporters about this since he was first asked … at the Super Bowl.”
The court filings included a section in which Colts equipment manager Sean Sullivan said Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg called Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano about K-balls, which are used in the kicking game only. Sullivan said the Ravens were given new footballs instead of the ones properly prepared.
Pagano was an assistant coach with the Ravens before getting the top job in Indianapolis in 2012.
Harbaugh said he spoke to Pagano on Tuesday night and asked him again if he and Rosburg talked about anything related to footballs. Pagano’s reply, Harbaugh said, was “totally false.”
“We’ve answered the questions from the beginning to the end very simply,” Harbaugh added. “Our ‘yes’ is yes; our ‘no’ is no. We’ve answered questions directly and honestly and straightforwardly from the start. And that’s the way we’re going to do it. The rest of it, I couldn’t care less about, really. I haven’t cared at all about deflated footballs or whether they did something wrong or anything else. We’re on to 2015. We stand on every word we said.”
Brady was suspended by the NFL and the Patriots were fined $1 million and stripped of two draft choices in what has become known as “Deflategate.” Brady appealed and Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld the suspension.
The players’ union and Brady then filed the lawsuit, which is being handled by a U.S. District Court in New York. The union’s filings were made public Tuesday.
“I’ve been consistent from the beginning when asked about whether the Ravens tipped off the Colts about deflated footballs,” Harbaugh said Wednesday. “I’ll say it again — we didn’t. We knew nothing about deflated footballs.
“As a former special teams coach, I know that members of the kicking group from teams talk to their counterparts all the time about conditions, including field, weather and footballs. I learned this morning that our kicking consultant (Randy Brown) sent a text to coach Pagano on Jan. 16 suggesting to the Colts that they pay attention to how the officials rotate the kicking balls into the game. Coach Brown’s text did not mention the Patriots and did not complain about anything the Patriots did. The Colts never responded to Randy’s text, and he had no further communications with the Colts on this matter.”
Rosburg said any contact between himself and Pagano had to do with something entirely different than underinflated footballs.
“On or about Jan. 12, 2015, Chuck Pagano called me to ask about a punt-field goal substitution play that New England used against the Ravens in the divisional game (on Jan. 10),” Rosburg’s statement said. “At the 10:55 mark of the second quarter at the 34-yard line, New England sent its placekicker (Stephen Gostkowski) onto the field with the field goal unit. This caused us to defend the punt with our field goal block team. The play was blown dead by the officials because the Patriots were penalized for delay of game. Coach Pagano wanted to know about New England’s substitution, because the coaching video does not show that part. There was no conversation regarding footballs.”
According to the court documents, the league became aware of potentially deflated footballs Jan. 17 in an email from Colts general manager Ryan Grigson to the NFL’s Dave Gardi. Grigson forwarded to Gardi an email from Sullivan, who also wrote “it is well known around the league” that New England’s ball boys deflated footballs after they had been inspected by game officials and turned over to the teams.
Harbaugh insisted the K-balls “were another issue” from the playoff loss to New Englnad.
“The kicking balls, the kickers were telling me during the game, were terrible,” he said Wednesday. “We found out they didn’t get our kicking ball in the game for some reason. There’s a whole story about that. Go back and read the Wells Report. You’ll learn all about the kicking balls. That’s a whole different, separate issue.”