GOP senator: Punish New England
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Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (R-Nev.) on Thursday said the National Football League should punish the New England Patriots for allegedly deflating footballs in last Sunday’s conference championship against the Indianapolis Colts.

“I’m calling on the NFL to work with the NFL Players Association to restore the credibility of the game before the Super Bowl kicks off on Feb. 1. I am seeking decisive actions ensuring all teams are playing according to the rules,” Heller said.

He noted that he represents the only state where betting on sports is legal, giving him a unique interest in ensuring the integrity of the sport.

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“When individuals break professional rules to gain unfair competitive advantages, everyone associated with the game is impacted. This type of behavior should never be tolerated,” Heller said.

The Patriots are slated to play the Seattle Seahawks less than two weeks from now, and the NFL determined in an initial probe Wednesday that 11 of the 12 footballs used by the Patriots had been deflated in violation of NFL rules.

New England head coach Bill Belichick on Thursday said he knew nothing about the balls being deflated, something that could make them easier to grip. He said sportswriters would have to ask New England quarterback Tom Brady about his preference for footballs.

On Wednesday, a number of lawmakers told The Hill they believed the Patriots should be allowed to play in the Super Bowl.

“Definitely, definitely,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said when asked if the Patriots should be able to play in less than two weeks. “I don’t think it’s that much of a big deal.”

Rep. Jim McDermottJames (Jim) Adelbert McDermottSondland has 'no intention of resigning,' associate says Three women accuse Gordon Sondland of sexual misconduct Portland hotel chain founded by Trump ambassador says boycott is attack on employees MORE (D-Wash.), a Seahawks fan, said the two teams can resolve the issue on Feb. 1.

“They know that they only have to pay $25,000 fine. It's like a slap on the wrist,” McDermott said of the Patriots' possible punishment. “Or maybe lose a draft choice, but that's his decision. We played hard against Green Bay, made it, and we're going to play hard against [the Patriots] and we'll see what happens.” 

“It’ll be a good game, and I expect us to win by a few points.”

Underinflated footballs are easier to grip and catch, especially in the rain. The NFL requires teams to inflate footballs 12.5 to 13.5 pounds per square inch and weigh between 14 and 15 ounces.

The NFL launched its investigation after Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson told his equipment staff that a ball he intercepted in the second quarter of the game was deflated.