Coach Bill Belichick said he did not know of any issue with the Patriots’ game balls in Sunday’s AFC Championship, and did not learn the league was investigating his team until Monday morning.
He also said he did not know how the Patriots’ footballs became underinflated during the game.
“I have no explanation for what happened,” he said.
It was Belichick’s first appearance since news emerged that 11 of 12 footballs the Patriots used against the Colts in the AFC Championship were underinflated. He gave a lengthy opening statement, but responded to questions only by saying he had nothing more to say about it.
“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’d say I’ve learned a lot more about this process in the last three days than I knew or had talked about it in the last 40 years,” Belichick said.
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Belichick said he does not concern himself much with the condition of game balls, although he acknowledged players would have a greater interest in it.
“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 than I am, and I hear them comment on it from time to time, so I can tell you, and they will tell you, that there is never any sympathy whatsoever from me on that subject,” Belichick said.
Belichick said he did not know quarterback Tom Brady’s preferences for game balls.
“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. “I can tell you in my 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. And that’s the only way I have ever thought about that.”
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Belichick said that prior to this controversy, he was unaware of the exact process by which game balls were prepared and handled.
“Let me just say that my personal coaching philosophy and my mentality has always been to make things as difficult as possible for players in practice, and so with regard to footballs, I’m sure that any current or past player of mine will 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,” Belichick said. “Any time the players complain about the quality of the footballs, I make them worse.”
The Patriots face the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1.
Quarterback Tom Brady is scheduled to meet with the media on Thursday at approximately 4 p.m.
Follow Matt Pepin on Twitter at @mattpep15.