BOSTON (CBS) — New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick responded to questions about “DeflateGate” for the first time on Thursday.
“All right I’ll start off by addressing the football issue here,” Belichick said. “When I came in Monday morning I was shocked to learn of the news reports about the footballs. 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 past three days than I knew or have talked about it in the last 40 years that I’ve coached in this league.
“I had no knowledge of the various steps involved in the game balls and the process that they went through that happened between when they were prepared and went to the officials and went into the game. So I’ve learned a lot about that.”
The head coach denied that he has ever instructed any player or staff member to deflate or inflate a football.
“I can tell you that in my entire coaching career, I have never talked to any player, staff member, about football air pressure,” Belichick said. “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. And that’s the only way that I have ever thought about that.”
Belichick said his contact with footballs on game days is minimal.
“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 a game, I honestly — it probably has happened on an incomplete pass or something — 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’re talking about in the last couple of days, until Monday morning. So based on what I knew Sunday, 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.”
The only time Belichick manipulates footballs, he said, comes during practice, when he tries to present the most difficult situation possible for his players.
“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,” Belichick explained. “So with regard to footballs, I’m sure that any current or past player of mine will tell you that the balls we practice with are as bad as they can be. Wet, sticky, cold, slippery — however bad we can make ’em, I make ’em. And any time that players complain about the quality of the footballs, I make ’em worse, and that stops the complaining.
“We never use the condition of the footballs as an excuse. We play with whatever or kick whatever we have to use, and that’s the way it is. That has never been a priority to me, and I want the players to deal with a harder situation in practice than they’ll ever have to deal with in a game, and maybe that’s part of our whole ball security philosophy. I’m trying to coach the team, and 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. And I hear them comment on it from time to time. But I can tell you, and they will tell you that there has never been any sympathy on that from me on that subject. Zero.”
With regard to how Tom Brady prefers his footballs for games, Belichick said the quarterback is the only one who can answer that.
“Tom’s personal preferences on his footballs are something that he can talk about in much better detail and information than I could possibly provide,” Belichick said.
Brady will speak to reporters at Gillette at 4 p.m.
According to a report by ESPN, 11 of the 12 footballs used by the Patriots in Sunday night’s AFC Championship game win over the Indianapolis Colts were not inflated to the proper level, as laid out by the NFL rulebook.
Read: DeflateGate Coverage
To prevent future footballs from dropping below the lowest air pressure level allowed by the NFL, Belichick said the team will make sure to inflate footballs higher than that low threshold.
“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,” Belichick said. “So we will take steps in the future to make sure that we don’t put ourselves in that type of situation again.”
When asked questions by reporters, Belichick repeated, “I’ve told you everything I know,” and “I have no explanation for what happened.”
The Patriots are set to play the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, Feb. 1.