Although the New England Patriots have a spot in Super Bowl XLIX, the NFL is investigating allegations that the team used under-inflated footballs on purpose to reach the big game. Now there have been calls for the NFL to punish the Patriots for violating the rules.
The accusations about the under-inflated balls used by New England, which have been termed with the moniker "Deflategate," have been brought up by the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts. Patriots coach Bill Belichick claimed on Thursday that he was "shocked" to hear the allegations.
"In my entire coaching career, I have never talked to any player (or) staff member about football air pressure," the Patriots coach said. "That is not a subject that I have ever brought up. To me, the footballs are approved by the league ... pregame, and we play with what's out there."
According to a USA Today Sports article, Brady provided that information to reporters on Thursday afternoon about the controversy.
"I didn't alter the ball in any way," Brady said. "I don't want anyone touching the balls after that ... to me, those balls were perfect."
Brady then admitted that the balls were altered "obviously on Sunday night." Someone asked him if he was a cheater.
"I don't think so," Brady said. "I wouldn't do anything to break the rules. I think everyone's trying to figure out what happened."
Brady added that he was "surprised as anybody" when news of the under-inflated balls broke out.
According to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, Belichick seemed to pin the blame on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for the Deflategate debacle. While he had "no explanation for what happened," the controversial coach did elaborate on Brady's game style.
"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.
According to Greg Botelho and Jason Hanna of CNN, Belichick also stated that he's learned more about the football inflation process in three days than at any time during his 40 years in the NFL. However, he said "in the future" that New England's game balls will be inflated to higher levels "to account for any possible change during the game."
Gary Mihoces of USA Today Sports reported that the NFL contacted the Ravens as part of their investigation about the inflation level of footballs. Ravens coach John Harbaugh made comments about it while he introduced new Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman in a teleconference.
"I know the NFL is doing an investigation," Harbaugh said. "They did call some of our people about it. I don't know exactly what the conversations were, but they answered honestly."
USA Today Sports added that Harbaugh's team lost to the Patriots 35-31 in the matchup before the AFC Championship Game with the Colts.
"We did not notice anything," Harbaugh said in regards to that game. "We never had a ball that they ever used or anything like that on offense, so we don't know anything about that in our game. We didn't have a chance to handle any of their offensive footballs."
CNN reported that the NFL's acceptable inflation weight for footballs is mandated between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch (psi). Mihoces elaborated on the NFL rules in regards to inflated balls.
"Each team uses 12 balls which are inspected by officials prior to each game," Mihoces wrote. "The home team also gets an allotment of 12 secondary balls (as does the road team if the game is played outdoors)."
Mihoces added that six brand-new balls are "set aside as kicking balls," noting that they "are inspected and used by both teams on all kicking plays."
Despite the allegations, Volin observed that based on the coach's comments, Belichick seemed unshaken by the accusations of deflated balls.
"We play with whatever or kick with whatever we have to use, and that's the way it is. That's never been a priority for me," Belichick said. "So based on what I knew Sunday night, thinking back on this which I've done several times, I can't think of anything I would've done differently based on what I knew then based on what I know now."
According to CNN, the NFL released an official statement explaining that "We are continuing our review and will provide information as soon as possible."