Bill Belichick and Tom Brady took to the podium on Thursday, and quite predictably, pleaded total ignorance to their latest (of many) possible cheating scandal(s).
Given his 40 years of coaching in the NFL and well known reputation as a micromanager, it's hard to believe Belichick previously knew nothing about what happens to game balls each Sunday, as he suggested.
Brady was even less convincing, first admitting that he's very particular about his game balls, but then claiming to have noticed no inconsistencies during the AFC title game.
The league's investigation is apparently being conducted with as little zeal as the one into Ray Rice's knockout, as Brady hasn't even been interviewed. But as Mike Florio suggests, the NFL surely wants to learn as little as possible about Brady's role prior to the Super Bowl, so they can avoid suspending him and/or Belichick for their biggest game.
Anyway, here's what's being written and said about the whole controversy:
Peter King, MMQB:
All 24 footballs were checked by pressure gauge after the game. All 24 checked at the correct pressure—which is one of the last pieces of the puzzle the league needed to determine with certainty that something fishy happened with the Patriots footballs, because the Colts’ balls stayed correctly inflated for the nearly four hours. There had been reports quoting atmospheric experts that cold weather could deflate footballs. But if the Patriots’ balls were all low, and the Colts’ balls all legit, that quashes that theory.
Mike Pereira, as transcribed by Will Brinson, CBS:
"This is cheating. And this is something the league doesn't want. It's bad enough that rules get taken advantage of and you kind of work against the intent of the rule. But this is cheating. And it is something the league will deal with harshly."
Part of Pereria's stance stems from his apparent belief that there was a clear-cut decision by someone with the Patriots to "get to somebody" and take air out of the balls.
"Somebody got to somebody and took a couple pounds out of the balls," Pereria said. "Would the officials notice? No."
If this is the stance the league takes -- and remember, Pereira worked in the league office -- the fallout from Deflategate could be worse than initially anticipated.
Ravens DE Chris Canty, channeling Charlie Murphy, as transcribed by Jamison Hensley, ESPN:
"The Patriots are habitual line-steppers," Canty said in an appearance on NBCSN on Wednesday. "If the allegations are true, then you are talking about attacking the integrity of our game and I have an issue with that. ...
"What I'm going to say about the deflating of the balls, to me there is no difference than performance-enhancing drugs. You are cheating at that point. You are getting a competitive advantage outside of the rulebook and there has to be some sort of consequences for that."
Mark Brunell, as transcribed by Mike Florio, PFT:
“I did not believe what Tom had to say,” Brunell said. “Those balls were deflated. Somebody had to do it. And I don’t believe there’s an equipment manager in the NFL that would on his own initiative deflate a ball without his starting quarterback’s approval. I just didn’t believe what Tom Brady had to say.”
“That football is our livelihood,” Brunell said. “If you don’t feel good about throwing that ball, your success can suffer from that.”
Troy Aikman, as transcribed by Ryan Wilson, CBS:
"It's obvious that Tom Brady had something to do with this," Aikman told SportsRadio 1310 on Thursday morning (via the Dallas Morning News), prior to coach Bill Belichick speaking with the media. "I know going back to when I played, they've loosened up the rules in terms of what each team is able to do with the footballs coming into the game. Used to, the home team provided all the balls. And now, each team brings their footballs the way they like them and break 'em in. Used to you couldn't break them in. So for the balls to be deflated, that doesn't happen unless the quarterback wants that to happen, I can assure you of that."
"Now twice, under Bill Belichick and possibly a third time, they've cheated and given themselves an advantage. To me, the punishment for the Patriots and/or Bill Belichick has to be more severe than what the punishment was for the New Orleans Saints."
Ross Tucker, Sports on Earth:
Even though Mark Brunell and Troy Aikman have been highly critical of the Patriots this past week, I don't think many current or former players think this had any impact on the Patriots beating the Colts. That game wasn't even close and Brady ironically played much better in the second half with the properly inflated balls. What about the week before in their close win over the Ravens, though? Are we to think the Colts game was the first time the Patriots ever tried this?
Jerry Rice, as transcribed by Paul Gutierrez, ESPN:
“I think you have to really put an asterisk on it, because this is going to follow them, you know, for the rest of their lives,” Rice said. “Because when you look at it, when people go back and they think about the New England Patriots, they're going to think about these controversies. So it's unfortunate. I've always wanted to do things the right way. I didn't want to take any short cuts or anything like that. It's just unfortunate that we're talking about them using underinflated footballs instead of talking about the Super Bowl.
“Now, you've got this on the back burner of them cheating and if they don't win this football game, then they're going to say, ‘Well, they didn't win because the balls were not underinflated.'"
Former Panthers GM Marty Hurney, as transcribed by David Newton, ESPN:
"To me, this isn't about deflating balls; it's about a continuing culture of alleged cheating, and to me, everybody's talking about [coach] Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. When is Robert Kraft going to come up and explain why, if they are found guilty of this, why do these things keep happening in this organization?"
Hurney said the current allegations against New England aggravate him because "it really pulls up some pretty big scabs.'' He admittedly kept track of New England's playoff record after "Spygate."
"They were 6-6 in the playoffs," he said. "Now they're getting to the Super Bowl and you're saying this is all behind them and this comes up. This isn't about deflating balls; this is about is there a culture of cheating that they'll do anything to get an edge.
"This is a bigger issue, and I think most people are missing the issue. It's an issue of if there is a culture of cheating at the organization that most people look at as the gold standard in this league. Is there a culture of cheating and breaking the rules?''
Greg Bedard, MMQB:
“Of course it’s a big deal,” said a defensive coordinator. “You go try to throw a ball in wet conditions that is fully inflated, and then throw one that has less air. Of course you’re going to get a better grip. It’s a definite advantage. And look which team it is. Not a surprise.”
An AFC defensive coach told me: “It pisses us off. We’re talking about the integrity of the game, respect for the game. That should mean something to you. You don’t have to look for every gray area to exploit. It’s like the ineligible player thing. [The Ravens complained that the Patriots were working too fast when players were reporting as ineligible and not allowing the defense time to change personnel, as is required.] That violates the spirit of the rule.
“[Belichick] is a great coach, and they are a great team. It’s just a shame that they feel the need to do these things. If you don’t respect the game, I lose respect for you.”
Don Banks, MMQB:
Remember when the league’s biggest problem was mainly that the Super Bowl was overhyped and always sucked? Ah, the good old days.
For now, Deflategate rages on and the story has become bigger (no exaggeration) than the Super Bowl showdown itself. Everyone has an opinion on the Patriots’ latest alleged questionable tactic, so let me add one more: If proven, it’s a serious enough offense that it deserves a serious enough punishment. But it’s not so serious that it should overshadow the NFL’s biggest game of all. That said, I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t continue to do so.