BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots set out on Thursday to address “DeflateGate” head-on.
Bill Belichick took the podium in the morning, and the Patriots moved up Tom Brady’s press conference from Friday to Thursday afternoon.READ MORE: Massachusetts Gas Prices Drop 2 Cents Amid 'Fears Of A Possible COVID-19 Global Economic Slowdown,' AAA Says
The campaign took place both publicly and behind closed doors, as NBC News reported that Brady addressed his teammates and accepted some blame for bringing the negative attention on the team.
“[Brady] told them that he prefers the football ‘a certain way,'” the report states, citing unnamed Patriots teammates. “[Brady] told them to stay focused on the Super Bowl.”
The notion of preferring the footballs “a certain way” would seem to indicate that the quarterback remains aware of the condition of footballs used during games.
At his press conference, Brady said that while he does prefer the footballs “a certain way,” that particular way is legal. He does not know how the balls ended up being underinflated.
“I didn’t have any … I didn’t alter the ball in any way,” Brady said. “I have a process that I go through every game, and I pick the footballs that I want to use for the game. Our equipment guys do a great job of breaking the balls in, they have a process that they go through. When I picked those footballs out, at that point, to me they were perfect. I don’t want anyone touching the balls after that, I don’t want anyone rubbing them, putting any air in them, taking any air out. To me those balls are perfect and that’s what I expect when I show up on the field.”
Brady was asked point-blank if he’s a cheater.
“I don’t believe so,” Brady said. “I feel like I’ve always played within the rules. I would never do anything to break the rules.”
Earlier in the day, Belichick said that as the head coach, he had no role in the handling of footballs on game day, and he added that Brady would be able to provide a more detailed description.
Belichick also said that he’s never instructed anybody on the Patriots to inflate or deflate footballs.
“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. “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.”
According to reports, the underinflated balls were replaced at halftime. If that timeline is correct, it means Brady completed 11-of-21 passes for 95 yards, one touchdown and one interception, and it means that with the properly inflated footballs he completed 12-of-14 passes for 131 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Brady said he noticed no differences in the footballs after halftime.
“I didn’t from the first half to the second half, I didn’t think twice about it,” he said. “I didn’t put one thought into the football at that point. Once I approve the ball, that’s the ball I expect to see out there in the field. It wasn’t a thought, inkling or concern of mine that they were any different from the first half to the second half.”READ MORE: Boston College QB Phil Jurkovec To Stay At School, Won't Enter NFL Draft Until 2023
Brady was asked if he feels comfortable saying nobody from the Patriots did anything illegal.
“I’m very comfortably saying that — as far as I know,” he said.
As far as the “certain way” he likes them, Brady said he prefers his football to be inflated at 12.5 PSI, which is the lower limit of the NFL’s rules.
“I like them at the way that I like them, which is at 12.5,” Brady said. “I think that particularly term, inflated or deflated … I would never do anything outside of the rules of play. I would never have someone do something that I thought was outside the rules.”
He later added: “I would love for them to be at 12.5. I know that there’s other quarterbacks that may prefer more than that. But that’s what works for me. It’s a very individual thing.”
With regard to many people labeling the Patriots as “cheaters,” Brady said it’s not of great concern to the team.
“Everybody’s entitled to an opinion. Those opinions rest with those people,” Brady said. “I think you can just go out and try to be the best person you can be, deal with people with respect and with integrity, have a high moral standard. I’ve always tried to do that as an athlete.”
Brady did say that he addressed his teammates, but he did not share what he said behind closed doors.
“Those are very personal things with my teammates,” he said. “Those were very personal comments.”
When pressed as to why a quarterback could not feel the difference in an underinflated football but Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson could tell, Brady had no answer.
“I don’t know, I don’t do that,” he said. “I get the snap, I drop back I throw the ball. I grip it and I try to throw the ball. That’s the extent of me touching the football. I don’t sit there and try to squeeze and determine that. If that’s what the Colts want to do, then that’s what the Colts want to do. Certainly I did not recognize that. I did not notice a difference between the first half and the second half. … I didn’t obviously think there was anything different between halves.”
ESPN reported earlier this week that 11 of the Patriots’ 12 footballs were found to have been inflated below the guidelines set by the NFL’s rulebook.
Brady said he’s received a lot of support this week, but he doesn’t view the situation as life or death.
“I tell them I’m OK. Things are going to be fine,” Brady said of what he tells friends and family. “This isn’t ISIS. No one’s dying. We’ll get through this.”MORE NEWS: Tuukka Rask Practices With Bruins On Monday
The Patriots will play the Seahawks in the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 1.