GLENDALE, Ariz. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Indianapolis Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson says he noticed nothing wrong with the football he intercepted against New England in last week’s AFC championship game.
Talking after his Pro Bowl team practiced at Luke Air Force Base on Thursday, he said he merely wanted to keep the ball as a souvenir.
“Some guys, you make a big play, you want the ball,” Jackson said. “That was my intention.”
He said he took it to the sidelines, hasn’t seen it since and probably never will.
“I’ll do my best to try to get a hold of it,” Jackson said. “But right now it’s in the middle of, what do they call it, ‘Deflategate.'”
The normal procedure when a player wants to save the ball, he said, is for it to go to the equipment staff “and you have it in your locker come Monday morning.”
“I don’t know how it got to this point,” Jackson said, “but somehow I’m in the middle of it.”
Jackson said he doesn’t handle the ball enough to know whether it was properly inflated or not.
“The deal about me saying that I noticed anything about it, that’s totally false,” he said.
Baltimore’s John Harbaugh, who will coach Team Carter at the Pro Bowl, said that it would be “an unfair advantage” to play with a deflated football.
Harbaugh’s Ravens lost at New England the previous week. He declined to discuss any specifics of the Patriots’ case, referring questioners to what he said at a news conference in Baltimore earlier in the week.
“I will say that I think the league is on it,” Harbaugh said. “They’re going to do whatever is right and proper. They’re going to make sure the game is played with integrity and it’s played the right way — it’s fair and there are no unfair advantages for either side in any game.
“That’s what sports is all about. That’s what football is all about. That’s their obligation and I’m confident that they’re up to that responsibility.”
Harbaugh said it’s not for him to say “what another coach would be thinking about or what he would know about.”
Asked if he would be aware of the condition of his team’s footballs, Harbaugh said, “I would be aware of a lot of things.”
“I try to be aware of as much as I can,” he said. “I think any coach would. But I can’t say what another coach would be aware of.”
On ESPN immediately following Tom Brady’s press conference, former Jets quarterback Mark Brunell said he wasn’t buying the claims of ignorance.
“I did not believe what Tom had to say,” Brunell said. “Those balls were deflated. Somebody had to do it. And I don’t believe there’s an equipment manager in the NFL that would on his own initiative deflate a ball without his starting quarterback’s approval. I just didn’t believe what Tom Brady had to say.”
Wide receiver Jordy Nelson of Green Bay said he thinks quarterbacks have the ball the way they like it, within the rules. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers likes the ball filled to the max.
Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford said he knows equipment staffs rub up the ball to get it the way the quarterback likes, but he’s never dealt with how much air is inside.
“Everybody likes it different,” Stafford said. “Apparently, Aaron Rodgers likes to throw a beach ball — whatever.”
While questions about deflated footballs dominated the discussions so far this week, there is a football game to be played on Sunday. The game at University of Phoenix Stadium, site of next weekend’s Super Bowl, is sold out.
Chris Carter and Michael Irvin are honorary captains and chose the players on their teams on Wednesday night, so it will be Team Carter vs. Team Irvin.
It’s the second time for this setup after the AFC vs. NFC format was scrapped.
On Thursday, each team had a workout at the Air Force base east of Phoenix, with hundreds of soldiers and their families surrounding the football field. After each practice, the players signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans.
“It’s an incredible scene,” Harbaugh said. “It’s neat to be a part of it. We drove up and the place was ringed with military personnel and the fighter jets were taking off over the top of us. To me, that’s what it’s all about, the sacrifices their families make all across this country to keep us safe and keep us free and give us a chance to play a big game like this and be a part of this. That’s America.”
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