BOSTON (CBS) — ESPN has taken a beating in New England for its coverage of DeflateGate, and the questions have only continued to this day. Chris Mortensen’s infamous, now-deleted tweet about how many footballs the Patriots allegedly deflated below the legal limit continues to be a lightning rod for criticism of the network.
So when ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich at Radio Row in Houston on Thursday, the topic was eventually going to come up. Paolantonio apparently had an awkward off-air exchange with Rich on Wednesday when he asked for directions to another radio host’s table – but that couldn’t possibly have been more awkward than how it got when the questions came to ESPN’s DeflateGate coverage.
Rich eventually pressed Paolantonio on whether he thought it was the right thing to do for Mortensen and ESPN to decide to leave up the tweet, which was deleted only several months after being proven erroneous. Paolantonio refused to answer the question, saying “I think I’ve answered the question” before sitting in silence.
Before the DeflateGate questions, Paolantonio talked about covering the Patriots for the seventh time with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. He sees a Patriots team that is looser than other teams he’s seen at past Super Bowls – and feels that Brady has benefitted from being more candid in recent days.
“This is easily the most relaxed [Patriots] team I’ve seen,” said Paolantonio. “They’re a fun team. They’re a very close-knit group … Belichick, to see him up on the podium – expansive, detailed, specific in his answers – I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the way he has handled the media. And Tom has been absolutely terrific.
“For [Brady] to open up in the last couple of days, it seems like he’s unburdened himself from some emotions that he’s kept bottled up.”
Paolantonio added that the Patriots practice was “exceptionally different” from the way they prepared for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans, and that Brady was “locked in” and “all business.”
Paolantonio may have been reluctant to answer certain DeflateGate questions, but he did agree on one thing: Roger Goodell needs to show up at Foxboro and get it over with.
Listen to the full podcast below: