ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Deflate-gate got interesting today. The head coach of the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick, said he was shocked to hear reports that footballs may have been illegally deflated in last Sunday's AFC Championship Game. The Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 in that game and advanced to the Super Bowl. Belichick spoke at a news conference today. New England quarterback Tom Brady talked to the media, as well. Meanwhile, the NFL is not talking, and joining me with the latest is NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.
Tom, Bill Belichick met with reporters today for about 10 minutes. I believe it may have been the most we've ever heard him say, so what did he say?
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: (Laughter). A lot. And it was striking for that reason, Robert. As you point out, you know, most were expecting Belichick to clam-up like he does, defer everything to the League, only talk about the upcoming Super Bowl. But in fact, he went on and on, about an eight-minute statement in which he talked in detail about what he didn't know. He said he had no explanation for the reports that say 11 of the 12 footballs New England prepared for the Indianapolis game for underinflated. Here he is.
(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS CONFERENCE)
BILL BELICHICK: To tell you that my entire coaching career I have never talked to any player, staff member, about football air pressure. To me, the footballs are approved by the League and game officials pre-game and we play with what's out there. And that's the only way that I have ever thought about that.
SIEGEL: OK, that's Patriots coach Bill Belichick. We also heard from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the man who presumably would benefit directly from an underinflated football because it's easier to grip and throw. What did Tom Brady say today?
GOLDMAN: He had no statement, just questions and answers - and a lot of questions. Brady said he did not alter the balls in any way. He said he picks the balls he wants to use pre-game and then really doesn't think anything more about them, including whether they are underinflated or overinflated. He said he didn't notice any difference in the balls Sunday from the first half to the second. Reportedly, the underinflated balls were discovered at halftime and then swapped out for properly inflated balls in the second half. And Brady was asked point-blank if he cheated. And here's what he said.
(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS CONFERENCE)
TOM BRADY: I don't believe so. I mean, I feel like I've always played within the rules. I would never do anything to break the rules. And I believe in fair play and I respect the League and you know, everything that they're doing to try to create a very competitive playing field for all of the NFL teams.
GOLDMAN: Robert, interestingly, some former players said after Brady's comments that they didn't believe him. They thought he was dismissing the whole situation too easily and that he should know the difference in the feel of an overinflated and underinflated ball. So the principal Patriots have spoken. They know nothing. Now we have to wait and see what the NFL finds out in its investigation.
SIEGEL: And we should note, in the second half with the properly inflated balls, he threw it pretty well.
GOLDMAN: 12 for 14 for 131 yards and two touchdowns. That's pretty good.
SIEGEL: OK. So we've heard from the Patriots. Anything from the Indianapolis Colts?
GOLDMAN: We have gotten some comments. My favorite tweet, Robert, was from Indianapolis tight end Dwayne Allen who said - Not a story. They could have played with soap for balls and beat us. Simply the better team.
Now, of course despite what Allen says, it is a story, certainly for sports reporters and for many fans who are having a great time debating this, filling the downtime before the Super Bowl on February 1. On the fringe of the debate some in fact are saying the Patriots should be disqualified from the Super Bowl and responding to that suggestion, Indie punter Pat McAfee tweeted this - If New England was to be disqualified, we'd be their replacements, right? I should probably lay off these strawberry margaritas.
We'll let that be the last word.
SIEGEL: (Laughter). OK. Thanks, Tom. That's NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.
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