PHILADELPHIA - Even in perfect weather, some footballs can be too slippery.
While teams are allowed to practice with regular game balls during the week, the ones used on special teams are off limits until shortly before kickoff. They’re shiny and new, and even have a name — the K-Ball.
There’s one major problem, though: The balls are a bit slick because they’re fresh out of the box.
“They’re slicker than the plastic balls my kids play with,” injured Philadelphia Eagles long-snapper Mike Bartrum said Tuesday.
Since 1999, kickers, punters, holders and snappers have complained to anyone who will listen that they don’t like the K-Balls.
It took Tony Romo’s bobbled snap to really get everyone’s attention.
Romo led Dallas to the playoffs after replacing Drew Bledsoe as the starting quarterback and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl. But he’ll be remembered for mishandling the snap on a 19-yard field goal in the closing moments of the Cowboys’ 21-20 loss to Seattle in a wild-card playoff game Saturday.
The NFL introduced the K-Balls eight years ago after the competition committee decided teams were abusing their privileges and taking unusual measures to condition balls so they would fly higher and travel farther.
Kickers and punters were accused of using strange methods to soften the leather, spread the seams and inflate the bladder. Rumors included instances of balls being put in microwave ovens, dryers and saunas.
“The reason this was put in place was to prevent teams from doctoring balls for kicking,” league spokesman Greg Aiello said.
So the night before a game, 12 balls marked with a “K” are delivered straight from the manufacturer, Wilson Sporting Goods, to the officials. Two hours before the game, a representative from each team can prepare the balls by rubbing them down and brushing them off. An official then checks the air pressure, puts the balls in a bag and subs them in on kicks.
Though Romo didn’t make any excuses for his gaffe, Akers and others around the league blamed the K-Ball.
“Kicking balls are very, very slick,” Akers said. “They have a lot of wax on them because they are brand new. You don’t get to work them in very much, and you see a lot of that happening.”
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