Belichick denies any knowledge of how footballs got deflated
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick denied having any knowledge of the deflated footballs controversy that has dominated conversation around the NFL since allegations arose that the AFC East franchise tampered with the footballs used during their 45-7 AFC championship game win over the Indianapolis Colts.
"When I came in Monday morning, I was shocked to learn of the news reports about the footballs," Belichick said. "I had no knowledge whatsoever of the 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 had talked about it in the last 40 years I’ve coached in this league. I had no knowledge of the various steps involved in the game balls and the process that went through, 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 to give to the officials, and the game officials either approve or disapprove the balls. That really was the end of it for me. 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 the footballs, I’m sure that any current or past player of mine would tell you 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. Anytime the players complain about the quality of the footballs, I make them worse, and that stops the complaint. So we never use the condition of the footballs as an excuse. We play with whatever or kick with whatever we have to use. That’s the way it is. That has never been a priority for me. I want the players to deal with a harder situation in practice than they’ll ever have to deal with in a game. Maybe that’s part of our whole ball security philosophy."
Belichick said his focus is on football. He made it very clear that the football issue isn't something he spends time on.
I’m trying to coach the team," he said. "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, so I can tell you and they will tell you that there is never any sympathy from me on that subject. Zero. Tom’s personal preferences on his footballs are something that he can talk about in much better detail and information that I can 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."
Belichick seemed to indicate that the Patriots won't be repeating this mistake.
"I have learned about the inflation range situation," he said. "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. So 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 would take steps in the future to make sure 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, will continue to be cooperative in any way that we can. I have no explanation for what happened, and that’s what they’re looking into. 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 has probably happened on an incomplete pass or something -- but I have never touched a game ball. That’s not something that I have any familiarity with on that. And again, I was completely and totally unaware of any of this that we were talking about in the last couple days until Monday morning."
The Patriots are in the Super Bowl and will play the Seattle Seahawks.
"Based on what I knew 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," Belichick said. "I told you the one change that we’ll 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 victory by our football team, our players.
"But again, we’ve been cooperative with the NFL investigation, will continue to do so, and we turn all our attention and focus onto the Seattle Seahawks, a very well-coached, talented, tough, competitive football team. We spent the last four days, three days, with our preparations and so forth with the trip. Those are coming to a conclusion. We’re wrapping that up. We’re starting our preparations today with the Seahawks and practicing through the weekend, so 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’re at."
Follow me on Twitter: @RavensInsider
Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun