|Will synthetic laces really make a difference? (Getty Images)|
It's been nearly six years since Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who also served as the holder on extra points and field-goal attempts, mishandled the snap on what would've been the game-winning kick in a playoff game against the Seahawks. At the time, we all blamed the K-ball, those footballs designated solely for punters and kickers that because of their specific purpose were slicker than their game-worn counterparts.
Consequently, as ESPN's John Clayton reported in December 2007, team managers were allowed "a 20-minute period prior to games to rub down the balls to make them more manageable for snappers, holders and kickers" and field-goal conversion rates improved immediately.
Now there's another ball-related controversy and it doesn't have to do with the football itself but the laces that hold it together. According to NFL Network's Albert Breer, the league is putting a leather ball with synthetic laces into play for Week 2 of the preseason. Teams have the option of practicing with the ball this week, and offensive units can choose to use the ball during this week's games.
"A number of active, Pro Bowl-caliber quarterbacks already have lodged complaints about the newer balls to the NFLPA, claiming they can cause micro-cuts and alter a passer's throwing motion," Breer reported Wednesday. "There is some concern among the quarterbacks that this is the first step in implementing the synthetic-lace balls full-time."
The league also issued a statement on the matter. "The Competition Committee has approved a test in Week 2 of the preseason using footballs with synthetic laces, as opposed to the traditional leather laces. Clubs will have the option of practicing with synthetic laces footballs during the week preceding their Week 2 preseason game. Both balls will be on hand and available for use in Week 2 preseason games, at the option of the offensive club. Footballs with synthetic laces are traditionally used in college and high school football while leather laces are used at the NFL level."
Our first question after hearing that some quarterbacks have already expressed concerns: Why fix something that isn't broken?
An NFLPA source provides Breer with some insight: the move to synthetic laces "could open the door for Nike, a prominent football distributer at the college and high school levels, to make a run at rights that have been held by Wilson for decades."
In April, Nike unveiled its new NFL uniforms, replacing Reebok as the league's official apparel provider.
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