BOSTON (CBS) — The New England Patriots were hard at work on Wednesday, back at Gillette Stadium to begin preparations for Super Bowl XLIX.
But while the Patriots are focused on the task at hand, they find themselves answering questions about Sunday’s controversial AFC Championship win over the Indianapolis Colts, hoping the story runs out of air sooner rather than later.
READ: DeflateGate Coverage
Early Thursday, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addressed accusations of the Patriots using deflated footballs in Sunday’s game. The coach said he was “shocked” by the story, and has never discussed football air pressure with any player or staff member. Belichick’s entire 11-minute press conference was on the matter, and his players tried their hardest to dodge questions about the subject in the team’s locker room following practice.
“I don’t have any knowledge of it,” said running back LeGarrette Blount, who ran for 148 yards and three touchdowns against Indianapolis. “We practice with crappier balls than what we play with. I don’t know anything about what is going on.”
Belichick himself explained that he uses weathered footballs in practice, and doesn’t feel any sympathy for his players when they complain.
“We always complain about balls, because Bill uses ‘worst situation’ kind of balls. Half the time we’re practicing with balls that are soaking wet,” explained wide receiver Brandon LaFell. “They’re pouring water on the balls before every play, and the more we complain the worse they make them. Whatever the ball was game day, that was good for me.”
Blount said he didn’t feel anything strange with the footballs used on his 30 carries against the Colts last weekend.
“I don’t know what the proper inflation feeling is, but it felt like a normal ball,” he said.
A few of New England’s defensive leaders were asked about the controversy, but wanted no part of the discussion.
“If it doesn’t involve intercepting it and stripping a ball, we don’t really talk about it,” said safety Devin McCourty, who tried his hardest to end the “deflategate” questioning. “I don’t mean to be rude, but I don’t care.”
“The only time I touch the football is if I recover it, snap it, intercept it or cause a fumble,” said defensive end Rob Ninkovich. “I’m passed [the controversy] and I’m looking forward to another opportunity that you don’t get often. I’m excited, very, very excited to get this week of preparation going and start the process.
“I’m going to focus on what my job is, and that’s to play good football,” he said.
Like Ninkovich, the Patriots are trying to shut out any outside noise about air in footballs and keep their focus on the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.
“We’re not going to let it be a distraction,” said Blount. “We’re going to continue to do what we do to prepare for this game.”
“This team has been through a lot. We fought to win games and play good football,” said McCourty. “That’s our focus and it should be everybody’s focus. But what everyone is focused on doesn’t concern me, and I can’t control that. I’m just trying to get ready to play.”
The Patriots have always tried to use an “us against the world” mentality, and you would think these latest accusations would add some fuel to that fire. But the players were adamant that they’re blocking out any “deflategate” noise, and they don’t need any added motivation for their next game.
“We’re playing in the Super Bowl, that’s all you need [for motivation]. As a child this is what you dream about, playing this game,” said LaFell. “If you need any more motivation for this game, you don’t need to be playing.”
And for all those calling the Patriots “cheaters,” LaFell isn’t going to let that get to him ahead of the biggest game of his career.
“They can call us anything they want. We’re playing in the Super Bowl and that’s what we’re focused on,” said LaFell.
Tune in to Super Bowl XLIX on 98.5 The Sports Hub — the flagship station of the New England Patriots. It’s the only place to hear Bob Socci & Scott Zolak’s local call of the game!