FOXBOROUGH — Patriots coach Bill Belichick, in an unscheduled, 23-minute press conference Saturday afternoon, reiterated his belief that the team is not to blame for the underinflated footballs it used in last week’s AFC Championship game.
Belichick also disclosed that the team had performed a simulation in recent days that led him to believe “atmospheric conditions’’ affect the air pressure in a football.
“I believe now, 100 percent, that I personally, and we as an organization, have absolutely followed every rule to the letter,” Belichick said. “I can say that, as far as I know, we did everything as right as we could do it.
“At no time was there any intent whatsoever to try to compromise the integrity of the game or to gain an advantage. Quite the opposite. We feel like we followed the rules of the game to the letter in our preparations, in our procedures, and in the way we handled every game that we’ve competitively played in as it relates to this matter.”
It marked the second time in three days that Belichick spoke about what’s become known as “Deflategate,” during a week in which holding practices and installing a game plan for the Super Bowl opponent — in this case, the defending champion Seattle Seahawks — is usually the sole focus. On Thursday, Belichick said he had no explanation for what happened to the footballs during the 45-7 win over the Colts in Sunday’s AFC Championship game. Hours later, quarterback Tom Brady sang the same tune.
On Saturday, following the Patriots’ practice inside the climate-controlled field house, Belichick defended his team, welcomed the NFL’s investigation, and described in great detail a simulation that was done on multiple footballs over the past few days in an attempt to re-create the process and determine what might have caused the footballs to deflate.
Last Sunday’s weather was rainy and windy, with the game time temperature at 51 degrees, and an underinflated football would likely have been easier for Brady to handle.
The NFL requires the balls to be inflated to between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch, and the league has been reviewing the balls since Monday.
In his press conference, Belichick said the simulation found the air pressure wavers depending on the use of the balls. The team’s preparation process, a “rubdown’’ to break them in and create what he called a “tackiness,’’ raises the air pressure by about 1 pound per square inch, he said.
“We prepare our footballs over time and we use them in practice,’’ he said. “That preparation process continues right up until the footballs are given to the officials prior to the game.”
But then on the field, the air pressure in the balls drops, adjusting to “the climatic conditions,’’ he said.
“We all know that air pressure is a function of the atmospheric conditions, it’s a function of that. So if there’s activity in the ball relative to the rubbing process, I think that explains why, when we gave them to the officials, and the officials put it at 12½, if that’s in fact what they did, that once the ball reached its equilibrium state, it probably was closer to 11½.”
In a statement Friday, the NFL confirmed reports that multiple footballs used in the first half by the Patriots fell below the range of 12.5 to 13.5 pounds per square inch. The Patriots led at halftime, 17-7. Playing the second half with footballs that were measured — both before and after the half — as conforming, the Patriots outscored the Colts, 28-0.
Belichick stressed Saturday that the texture of a football, not its weight or air pressure, is most important to a quarterback. In fact, during the team’s simulation and study the past few days, Belichick said, Brady and the other Patriots quarterbacks were tested to see if they could detect a difference.
“We had our quarterbacks look at a number of footballs, and they were unable to differentiate a 1-pound-per-square-inch difference. They were unable to do it. On a 2-pound differential, there was some degree of differentiation, but certainly not a consistent one,” Belichick said. “From all the footballs that I’ve handled over the past week, I can’t tell if there’s a 1-pound difference in any of the footballs.”
It’s unclear how quickly the NFL will conclude its investigation or announce any findings or discipline. Belichick said near the end of his press conference Saturday that it’s a subject he’s finished talking about “for a long time,” although head coaches will be meeting with the media on an almost daily basis at the Super Bowl, and this has been a story that’s shown no signs of going away, since there’s been no conclusion. The Patriots are scheduled to arrive in Phoenix on Monday.
Belichick, while not admitting this has been a distraction, noted how it has prevented him from fully preparing for the Seahawks.
“I’m embarrassed to talk about the amount of time that I’ve put into this, relative to the other important challenge in front of us,” Belichick said. “We have a huge game, and that’s where that focus is going to go. I’ve spent more than enough time on this. I’ve learned way more than I ever thought I would learn. It’s much more complex; there are a lot of variables that I was unaware of.’’
At one point, Belichick made a reference to the 1992 movie “My Cousin Vinny,’’ saying: “I’m not an expert in footballs; I’m not an expert in football measurements. I’m just telling you what I know. I would not say that I’m Mona Lisa Vito of the football world, as she was in the car expertise area, all right?’’
In response to a question, he also briefly discussed the team’s decision always to err on the side of caution after the league fined him in 2007 for spying on an opponent’s defensive signals. “We never did it again. We’re never going to do it again, and anything else that’s close, we’re not going to do either,’’ he said.
Scandal aside, the Patriots will attempt to win their fourth Super Bowl title. Belichick and Brady are the only current team members who have been part of the previous three.
The toughness that Belichick demands from his players has been met this season, according to the coach.
“Our players train in conditions that a lot of people would recommend that we not drive in,” he said. “They’re a physically and mentally tough team that works hard, that trains hard, that prepares hard, and have met every challenge that I’ve put in front of them. And I know that because I work them every day.
“This team was the best team in the AFC in the regular season; we won two games in the playoffs against two good football teams. Best team in the postseason. That’s what this team is, and I know that because I’ve been with them every day. I’m proud of this team.”
Listen to Belichick’s comments below: