The conversation should be about the “big game,” but the NFL world seems to be obsessed with a controversy that is now being investigated after since the AFC championship. It is being called “Inflategate” and is changing the sports conversation.
- Around the NFL Writer
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady insists he didn’t “alter the ball in any way” during last week’s AFC Championship Game vs. the Indianapolis Colts.
Addressing the NFL’s investigation of overly deflated footballs, Brady explained that he went through the same process he always does.
“I go in and I take the footballs that I want to use for the game,” Brady said. “Our equipment guys do a great job with breaking the balls in. They have a process that they go through. When I pick those balls out, at that point to me they are perfect. I don’t want anyone touching the balls after that, I don’t want anyone rubbing them, putting any air in them, taking any air out.
“To me those balls are perfect and that’s what I expect when I show up on the field. So that happened obviously on Sunday night, is the same process that I always go through. I didn’t think anything of it.”
Asked point-blank if he is a cheater, Brady replied, “I don’t believe so. … I would never do anything to break the rules.”
Brady later added that he’s “very comfortable” stating that nobody did anything wrong, to his knowledge.
Now that Brady and coach Bill Belichick have both emphasized plausible deniability, the issue is in the NFL’s hands.
Here’s what else we learned from Brady’s news conference:
1. Brady said the equipment staff told him they didn’t do anything to the footballs. “I believe them,” said Brady, who added, “obviously, I’d like to know what happened.”
2. Brady did not notice a difference between the balls used in the first half and those used in the second half. “I didn’t put one thought into the football at that point,” Brady said.
3. Queried about past on-the-record comments that he prefers a deflated ball, Brady responded, “I like them at 12.5 (PSI). That’s the perfect grip for a football.”
It’s also the minimum PSI allowed by the NFL.
4. After initially laughing off the allegations as “ridiculous” on Monday, an uncomfortable Brady took a more somber tone on Thursday. His first instinct was that a “sour grapes” feeling was at the heart of the investigation. Now he believes, “this is a very serious topic. Obviously the integrity of the league is very important.”
Brady believes the Patriots won the AFC Championship Game “fair and square.”
5. Asked if investigators had talked to him about the deflated balls, Brady replied, “not yet.”
In other words, this story won’t be wrapped up anytime soon.
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Bill Belichick Pleads Ignorant
Editor’s note: The following is Bill Belichick‘s complete opening statement from Thursday’s news conference, addressing the deflated football controversy surrounding the New England Patriots.
“I’ll start out by addressing the football issue here. When I came in Monday morning, I was shocked to learn of the news reports about the footballs. I had no knowledge whatsoever of this situation until Monday morning. I would say I’ve learned a lot more about this process in the last three days than I knew or have talked about it in the last 40 years that I have coached in this league. I had no knowledge of the various steps involved in the game balls and the process that happened between when they were prepared and went to the officials and went to the game. So, I’ve learned a lot about that. I obviously understand that each team has the opportunity to prepare the balls the way they want, give them to the officials and the game officials either approve or disapprove the balls. That really was the end of it for me until I learned a little bit more about this the last couple days.
Let me just say that my personal coaching philosophy, my mentality has always been to make things as difficult as possible for players in practice. So with regard to footballs, I’m sure that any current or past player of mine would tell you that the balls we practice with are as bad as they can be: wet, sticky, cold, slippery. However bad we can make them, I make them. Any time that players complain about the quality of the footballs, I make them worse and that stops the complaining. We never use the condition of the footballs as an excuse. We play with whatever or kick with whatever we have to use and that’s the way it is. That has never been a priority for me and I want the players to deal with a harder situation in practice than they’ll ever have to deal with in the game. Maybe that’s part of our ball security philosophy.
I’m trying to coach the team and that’s what I want to do. I think we all know that quarterbacks, kickers, specialists have certain preferences on footballs. They know a lot more about it than I do. They’re a lot more sensitive to it than I am. I hear them comment on it from time to time, but I can tell you and they will tell you that there is never any sympathy whatsoever from me on that subject. Zero. Tom’s (Brady) personal preferences on his footballs are something he can take about in much better detail and information than I could possibly provide. I could tell you that in my entire coaching career I have never talked to any player, staff member about football air pressure. That is not a subject that I have ever brought up. To me the footballs are approved by the league and game officials pregame and we play with what’s out there. That’s the only way that I have ever thought about that.
I’ve learned about the inflation range situation. Obviously with our footballs being inflated to the 12.5-pound range, any deflation would then take us under that specification limit. Knowing that now, in the future we will certainly inflate the footballs above that low level to account for any possible change during the game. As an example, if a ball deflated from 13.2 to 12.9 it wouldn’t matter. But if it deflated from 12.5 to 12.3 it would — as an example. We will take steps in the future to make sure that we don’t put ourselves in that type of potential situation again.
The National Football League is investigating this situation. We have cooperated fully, quickly and completely with every request that they have made; (we) continue to be cooperative in any way that we can. I have no explanation for what happened. That’s what they’re looking into. So I can’t comment on what they’re doing. That’s something that you should talk to them about.
Again, my overall knowledge of football specifications, the overall process that happens on game day with the footballs is very limited. I would say that during the course of the game, I honestly never — it probably has happened on an incomplete pass or something – but I’ve never touched a game ball. It’s not something I have any familiarity with on that.
Again, I was completely and totally unaware of any of this that we’re talking about in the last couple days until Monday morning. Based on what I knew Sunday, Sunday night, thinking back on this, which I’ve done several times, (I) really can’t think of anything that I would have done differently, based on what I knew then, based on what I know now. I told you the one change we would make in the initial start level of the football pressure, but that’s really about it.
It’s unfortunate that this is a story coming off of two great playoff victories by our football team and our players. But again, we’ve been cooperative with the NFL investigation. We’ll continue to do so and we will turn all our attention and focus on to the Seattle Seahawks, a very well coached, talented, tough, competitive football team.
We’ve spent the last four days, three days, with our preparations and so forth for the trip. I think those are coming to a conclusion. We’re wrapping that up and we’re starting our preparations today with theSeahawks and practicing through the weekend. We’ll have a good, solid opportunity to get ourselves ready to go before we head down there.
Again, I have no further comment on the NFL investigation and I’ve told you all I know about the subject from my perspective. That’s where we are.”