New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been under scrutiny; accused of intentional ball deflation by his team during the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts. After winning 45-7, the Patriots will go on to play in the XLIX Super Bowl on February 1, 2015.
On Thursday, Belichick responded to the allegations in a press conference saying, “We play with what’s out there and that’s the only way that I have ever thought about that.” Belichick said in his first expansive comments on the controversy since Sunday night’s 45-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
According to the NFL, Footballs must weigh between 14 and 15oz. ESPN reported that 11 of 12 balls used by the Patriots were inflated below league-required limits.
Here’s what Belichick had to say: I’ll start out by addressing the football issue here. When I came in Monday morning, I was shocked to learn of the news reports about the footballs. I had no knowledge whatsoever of this situation until Monday morning. I would say I’ve learned a lot more about this process in the last three days than I knew or have talked about it in the last 40 years that I have coached in this league. I had no knowledge of the various steps involved in the game balls and the process that happened between when they were prepared and went to the officials and went to the game. So, I’ve learned a lot about that. I obviously understand that each team has the opportunity to prepare the balls the way they want, give them to the officials and the game officials either approve or disapprove the balls. That really was the end of it for me until I learned a little bit more about this the last couple days.
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. So with regard to footballs, I’m sure that any current or past player of mine would tell you that the balls we practice with are as bad as they can be: wet, sticky, cold, slippery. However bad we can make them, I make them. Any time that players complain about the quality of the footballs, I make them worse and that stops the complaining. We never use the condition of the footballs as an excuse. We play with whatever or kick with whatever we have to use and that’s the way it is. That has never been a priority for me and I want the players to deal with a harder situation in practice than they’ll ever have to deal with in the game. Maybe that’s part of our 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. I hear them comment on it from time to time, but I can tell you and they will tell you that there is never any sympathy whatsoever from me on that subject. Zero. Tom’s [Brady] personal preferences on his footballs are something he can take about in much better detail and information than I could possibly provide. I could tell you that in my entire coaching career I have never talked to any player, staff member about football air pressure. 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. That’s the only way that I have ever thought about that.
I’ve learned about the inflation range situation. Obviously with our footballs being inflated to the 12.5-pound range, any deflation would then take us under that specification limit. Knowing that now, in the future we will certainly inflate the footballs above that low level to account for any possible change during the game. 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 – as an example. We will take steps in the future to make sure that we don’t put ourselves in that type of potential situation again.
The National Football League is investigating this situation. We have cooperated fully, quickly and completely with every request that they have made; [we] continue to be cooperative in any way that we can. I have no explanation for what happened. That’s what they’re looking into. So I can’t comment on what they’re doing. That’s something that you should talk to them about.
Again, 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 the game, I honestly never – it probably has happened on an incomplete pass or something – but I’ve never touched a game ball. It’s not something I have any familiarity with on that.
Again, I was completely and totally unaware of any of this that we’re talking about in the last couple days until Monday morning. 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. I told you the one change we would make in the initial start level of the football pressure, but that’s really about it.
It’s unfortunate that this is a story coming off of two great playoff victories by our football team and our players. But again, we’ve been cooperative with the NFL investigation. We’ll continue to do so and we will turn all our attention and focus on to the Seattle Seahawks, a very well coached, talented, tough, competitive football team.
We’ve spent the last four days, three days, with our preparations and so forth for the trip. I think those are coming to a conclusion. We’re wrapping that up and we’re starting our preparations today with the Seahawks and practicing through the weekend. We’ll have a good, solid opportunity to get ourselves ready to go before we head down there.
Again, I have no further comment on the NFL investigation and I’ve told you all I know about the subject from my perspective.