Quarterback Tom Brady said Thursday he is not responsible for the underinflated footballs the Patriots were discovered to have used Sunday in the AFC Championship game vs. the Colts.
“I didn’t alter the ball in any way,” Brady said in an afternoon press conference at Gillette Stadium.
Brady was peppered with questions but he insisted he did nothing wrong. He also said he has not yet spoken with the NFL regarding its investigation of the matter.
“I have no knowledge of any wrongdoing,” said Brady. “I’m very comfortable saying that.”
He said he inspected the footballs prior to the game, and also said he did not notice any difference in the footballs during the game. Brady added that he spoke with members of the team’s equipment staff and they told him they did not tamper with the game balls.
“I have a process that I go through before every game where I go in and I pick the footballs that I want to use for the game,” Brady said. “Our equipment guys do a great job of breaking the balls in. They have a process that they go through. When I pick those balls out, at that point, to me, they’re 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.”
The Patriots routed the Colts, 45-7, to advance to Super Bowl XLIX vs. the Seahawks on Feb. 1.
“I felt like we won the game fair and square,” Brady said.
Brady was asked if he was 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. I believe in fair play, and I respect the league, and everything that they’re doing to try to create a competitive playing field for all the NFL teams.”
During a Monday appearance on WEEI radio, Brady laughed off the initial report of underinflated footballs. On Thursday, he attributed that reaction to only learning of the story that morning.
Since then, news emerged that the NFL discovered 11 of the 12 footballs used by the Patriots were underinflated, and on Thursday morning, coach Bill Belichick also said he knew nothing about it.
Belichick did say that players naturally would have a more vested interest in the condition of a game ball.
“I think we all know that quarterbacks, kickers, specialists, have certain preferences on footballs,” said Belichick. “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 he did not know 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.
Follow Matt Pepin on Twitter at @mattpep15.