May 20, 2015


NFL Has Let QBs Become Masters of Inflation (Chip Scoggins, 5/19/15, Star Tribune)

Turns out, NFL quarterbacks are a meticulous bunch when it comes to footballs and getting them prepared for game day, even if they stop short of letting air out of them.

Once footballs arrive in shipment, equipment managers use -- among various tricks -- a dirt compound, water, players' sweat, Coca-Cola, special brushes, dryers, steam baths and good old-fashioned elbow grease to make footballs feel worn.

New footballs have a slick, waxy sheen that makes them hard to grip. Quarterbacks hate shiny footballs.

"You just can't play with a brand-new ball," former Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Randall Cunningham said. "It's virtually impossible. The statistics would never be what they are now." [...]

Most quarterbacks are incredibly particular about their preferences. ESPN analyst Tim Hasselbeck preferred less air, more nubby leather and raised laces.

"I was crazy picky," he said.

As a young player, Frerotte had equipment managers wrap new footballs in damp towels and put them in the dryer to soften the leather. Hasselbeck saw guys drench towels in Coke and wrap the footballs to add some tack. Hasselbeck liked to practice on grass in the morning to take advantage of dew.

Quarterbacks say the best breaking-in method is to have teammates use footballs in practice to get sweat on them. Former Denver Broncos quarterback Adam Weber only wanted running backs handling them.

And only the right amount of sweat.

"You can get too much sweat on it and ruin the ball," Weber said. "You have to find that perfect medium."

Hasselback knew a football needed more work if the ball discolored his hand.

"I would be like, 'Dude, my hand's pink. You didn't even get the first layer off,' " he said.

Former Viking Sage Rosenfels said geography plays a role in the process, too. When he played in Miami and Houston, his footballs would be game ready after only a few practices because of the high humidity.

That wasn't the case in Minnesota, but Rosenfels said Vikings longtime equipment manager Dennis Ryan had a special touch with footballs. Rosenfels declined to reveal Ryan's methods, saying only that everything was "all legal, the things that they did."

"It's a special sauce I don't think Dennis would give away," Rosenfels joked.

He's right. The Vikings wouldn't provide the secret formula, either.

Frerotte, who played for seven NFL teams, also gave his stamp of approval.

"Dennis is probably the best I've ever seen in getting the ball ready," he said. "The method that he uses is great because it doesn't ruin the integrity of the ball. It gets that wax off and gets you a good grip so you can throw it."

Posted by at May 20, 2015 7:25 PM

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