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Ball inflation controversy creates a real mess for Patriots, NFL

The situation has created a vague sense of gloom regarding what could happen at some point after the Super Bowl.

Seven years ago, an eventually-retracted report from the Boston Herald that the Patriots videotaped the Rams’ walk-through practice prior to Super Bowl XXXVI surfaced two days before the Patriots faced the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. Though the team has never publicly claimed that the intense distraction that emerged was a factor in the eventual loss that prevented a 19-0 season, there’s no way the NFL’s immediate launching of an investigation on the Friday before the title game didn’t have at least some impact on the franchise.

This time around, the latest controversy involving a team that for whatever reason keeping tripping into these issues arose two weeks before the Super Bowl. And it quickly has become a major distraction, both for the team and for the league.

At some point (the sooner the better), the Patriots need to forget about it and focus on the task at hand. No one will be taking away their AFC title, which would have been easily secured regardless of whether the balls were filled with fluid, flubber, or flatus. But the situation has created a vague sense of gloom regarding what could happen at some point after the Super Bowl.

WATCH: Tom Brady: Fan of the deflated ball

During Tuesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent said that the league hopes to complete the investigation into this game-integrity issue within the next two-to-three days. However, that doesn’t mean findings will be announced or punishment issued before the Super Bowl.  So the Patriots possibly will enter final preparations for the game uncertain as to what eventually will come.

For the league office, the fumes of the Ray Rice investigation make it clear to everyone involved that anything other than a thorough, fair, and transparent process will jeopardize jobs. Commissioner Roger Goodell, who received multiple public statements of support from Patriots owner Robert Kraft during the Rice fiasco, may feel conflicted about the actions that need to be taken to protect the integrity of the game — and regarding the natural sense of loyalty to an extremely influential owner who stuck his neck out for Goodell at a time when the torches-and-pitchfork crowd was banging on the castle gates.

Read more at NBC Sports