Patriots under investigation for deflating balls
Patriots coach Bill Belichick is under investigation in "deflategate." (USA TODAY SPORTS)
What would a Super Bowl involving the New England Patriots be without a little controversy?
They go together like Boston and clam chowdah, don’t they?
The newly crowned AFC champs were facing raised eyebrows on Monday after WTHR.com’s Bob Kravitz reported a few hours after the AFC Championship that the NFL was investigating the possibility that the Patriots were playing with deflated footballs during their 45-7 destruction of the Indianapolis Colts.
The belief is footballs that have less than 12½ pounds of air per inch are easier to grip and catch.
If Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was trying to quell the notion that his organization is a bunch of cheaters, he didn’t exactly do it on Monday afternoon when he refused to answer this direct question: Did the Patriots use deflated balls?
Belichick’s response: “I just said, the first time I heard of it was this morning.”
It’s those kind of answers that make you think Belichick wants to be the bad guy. Maybe he has decided he’s going to go all-in having already been tried, convicted and fined for stealing signals. His detractors will point out the Patriots haven’t won a Super Bowl since they got busted for that, and this situation won’t bring anyone new onto the bandwagon as they get ready to battle the Seahawks in Glendale, Ariz., on Feb. 1.
Let’s be clear: No matter what becomes of the NFL’s investigation, how much air was in the footballs had nothing to do with New England’s win over Indianapolis on Sunday night. The Pats dominated that game from beginning to end, which is why those with New England accents and Boston sports radio hosts on Monday were basically painting any accusers — and nothing has been proven in Roger Goodell’s scary court of law — as having sour grapes.
“All I can say is we try to do things the right way,” said Patriots receiver Matt Slater, a team captain. “By no means are any of us perfect. We’re all humans. We try to do things the right way. We work hard at our jobs and our professions to be successful, and it’s unfortunate that things like this come up, but that’s life. That’s the world we live in.
“No matter what you do in this life or what profession you’re in, not everybody’s going to like you. It doesn’t matter what you do or who you are, that’s just the reality.”
That may be the case, but it always seems to be the Patriots who find a way for fans to not like them.
As for the ball situation, both teams give 12 balls to the officials before the game. The officials make sure they’re up to code and then keep them until they give them to the ball attendants just before kickoff. It’s difficult to believe the Patriots would have had time to alter the pigskin anyway.
The officials were doing something with the balls just after the second-half kickoff, leading to a delay while they switched which one would be used. Phil Simms speculated on the broadcast that they were simply switching from a kickoff ball to one New England uses on offence.
“We’ll cooperate fully with whatever the league wants us to do ... whatever questions they ask us or want they want us to do,” Belichick said.
Aside from Slater, the rest of the Patriots interviewed on Monday in their locker-room didn’t have much to share about Deflategate.
“I don’t know anything about that,” left tackle Nate Solder said. “I don’t pay much attention to all that stuff.”
“They felt fine,” said receiver Julian Edelman, who hauled in nine passes for 98 yards. “I don’t know anything about that.”
Then there was defensive tackle Vince Wilfork’s answer: “I don’t touch footballs.”
The man chucking the footballs in question, quarterback Tom Brady, couldn’t believe he had to talk about the balls during his weekly interview with Boston radio station WEEI.
“I think I’ve heard it all at this point. It’s ridiculous,” Brady said. “I don’t even respond to stuff like this.”