UPDATE: Tom Brady: "I Didn't Alter The Ball In Any Way"
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is taking the lead of head coach Bill Belichick when it comes to "deflate-gate." The veteran signal-caller says he did not alter the inflation of the footballs used in Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Colts. Brady says he would never do anything to intentionally cheat and that he respects the rules and the league. The NFL is investigating after the Colts complained about under-inflated balls during Sunday's game.
And he used a lot of words in his opening statement, which was about four minutes, to say that he had no knowledge of the chain of command for footballs on game day and had no explanation for how almost all of the Patriots' game balls were well under the league-mandated air pressure for the AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.
Once Belichick was done with his lengthy opening statement, he went full Belichick and answered almost every question one of two ways: "I’ve told you everything I know" and "I don’t have an explanation for what happened." After repeating those things a few times, he ended the press conference by walking off.
During his opening statement, Belichick made it clear that not only did he know nothing about the pre-game inspection of footballs and what happens after that, he had never thought about it in all of his years in coaching.
"When I came in Monday morning I was shocked to learn of the news reports of the footballs," Belichick said. "I had no knowledge whatsoever of this situation until Monday morning. I’ve learned a lot more about this process in the last three days than I knew or had talked about in the last 40 years coaching in this league.
He clearly said he has never had a conversation with anyone about footballs, which presumably means that he was saying he never told any player or anyone else who works for the Patriots to deflate the game balls.
"My entire coaching career, I have never talked to any player, staff member about football air pressure," Belichick said. "That’s not a subject 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 I have ever thought about that."
He said he knew teams could prepare balls how they want, give them to officials for inspection before the game and they either approve or disapprove. And he said that's about the extent of his knowledge regarding footballs on game day.
Although it seems like most people won't buy that explanation from a man famous for micro-managing, it's probably accurate. Of all the things a coach deals with during the week, figuring out the protocol for football inspection isn't high on the priority list.
Belichick had no explanation for what happened on Sunday, when 11 of the 12 Patriots' game balls were reportedly found to be two pounds per square inch of pressure lower than league rules. Belichick's only hint at his theory about how that could have happened came when he explained that the Patriots will start inflating balls to the high end of the rule, which is 13.5 pounds per square inch, instead of the minimum of 12.5 PSI. It made it sound like Belichick thought since the balls started at the minimum and lost some air naturally, that's why they were low during the game.
"If a ball deflated from 13.2 to 12.9, it wouldn’t matter," Belichick said, "If it deflated from 12.5 to 12.3 it would. As an example. We’ll take steps in the future to make sure we don’t put ourselves in that type of potential situation again."
Belichick said quarterback Tom Brady might know more of the process because he handles the balls (Belichick said he can't remember ever handling a game ball, except maybe grabbing an incomplete pass that came near him). But Belichick truly seemed to have no idea about the football protocol. Until this week, that is, when deflate-gate became the biggest story in the NFL leading up to the Super Bowl.
"It’s unfortunate this is a story coming out of two great playoff victories by our football team and players, but, again, we’ve been cooperative with the NFL investigation and will continue to do so, and we’ll turn all our attention and focus onto the Seattle Seahawks," Belichick said.