GLENDALE, Ariz. — The NFL conducted approximately 40 interviews of Patriots full- and part-time personnel last week as part of its investigation into the Deflategate incident.
But quarterback Tom Brady wasn’t one of them. And he won’t be interviewed any time soon.
Appearing on ESPN Sunday night during halftime of the Pro Bowl, Brady told host Chris Berman that the investigators, led by attorney Ted Wells and NFL executive VP Jeff Pash, haven’t spoken to him yet, and probably won’t until after next Sunday’s Super Bowl.
“I believe they’re going to do that after the season, so we’ll deal with it after this game,” Brady said.
That Brady, considered a key figure in the incident given that he chooses and modifies the Patriots’ game balls to his liking, won’t be interviewed for a while signifies that the NFL will take several weeks to finalize its investigation.
Brady said he doesn’t believe the investigation will be a distraction this week as the Patriots prepare to face the Seahawks.
“I think everybody’s locked in, ready to go for this Super Bowl,” Brady said. “It’s a great opportunity for us, you know, and our guys have worked really hard so, hopefully we can go out there and play our best on Sunday.”
During his surprise — and surprising — Saturday press conference, Patriots coach Bill Belichick admitted that he had spent time over the preceding days doing a little bit of experimenting with footballs, trying to get to the bottom of what may have caused deflation in the team’s footballs during the AFC Championship game.
But Deflategate had little impact, if any, on the Patriots’ preparation for Super Bowl XLIX last week, as the team held four practices, walkthroughs, and numerous meetings.
The players’ focus has been on the game, defensive end Chandler Jones said.
“The game plan,” he said. “[That’s] the biggest focus, paying attention to detail, buying into what the coaches are saying and just getting things done. That’s about it.”
“Practice has had a high tempo, guys are focused,” receiver Julian Edelman said Sunday morning. “We still have a long way to go. We still have a few days out in Arizona to prepare so we’re going to try to take advantage of that. It’s been pretty good.”
Running back Shane Vereen agreed.
“They’ve been good,” he said of the practices. “We’ve got some things done. I think our guys are on the same page. I think we’re focused, I think we’re headed in the right direction, but we’ve still got another week to go. Seven days until the game, so we still have seven days left to prepare.”
In the locker room, players’ travel bags were laid out, waiting to be filled with practice- and game-specific equipment needs. New England held one final practice inside the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse in the middle of the day, and will depart for Arizona on Monday.
Controversy or not, players were ready to get to Phoenix.
“Overly excited,” Jones said. “My biggest thing is to not peak too soon. In playing in a game like this, I feel your biggest focus is on being calm and trying to stay calm leading up to the game and being able to peak right before the game or peaking in the game.
“So I’m just trying to stay level throughout the whole week and just try to focus on technique and hand placement and things of that nature in my position — practicing with imagination and seeing yourself make big plays. That’s basically what I’ve been doing this whole week.”
Edelman will be making his second appearance in a Super Bowl, so he knows what to expect, but he was still excitedly anticipating the trip.
“Definitely. You’re anxious to get out there and kind of feel your surroundings, see what you’re going to be working with that week as far as facility, the meeting rooms,” Edelman said. “You don’t have to worry about anything else. You should have all your off-the-field stuff taken care of. You’re definitely anxious to get out there and start the preparing process out there. It’ll be nice to be in some 70-degree weather. That’s always nice. [We’ll] go out there and try to win the last game.”
Vereen, like Edelman a California native, is looking forward to the warmer temperatures, but that’s secondary to the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl.
“It’s going to be nice,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it, actually, looking forward to going to the West Coast. It’s going to be fun. This game could literally be anywhere and it would still be the same amount of excitement and the same amount of fun. Everybody is just getting ready for the game.”
Garoppolo plays a role
Jimmy Garoppolo was pulling double duty last week. The rookie backup quarterback was receiving reps with the offense as the game plan for the Seahawks was installed, but he was also playing the role of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in helping prepare the defense.
Serving as the opposing team’s quarterback during practice isn’t unique to Garoppolo. But Wilson — who threw for 3,475 yards and rushed for 849 — is a unique talent making it especially hard for a stand-in to try and mimic.
“The hardest part? I think he’s a little faster than I am,” said Garoppolo, who appeared in six games this season and completed 19 of 27 passes for 182 yards and one touchdown. “I’m trying to get up to his speed.”
Garoppolo is certainly capable of making plays with his feet; he scrambled for 16 yards and even had a special running play installed for him in his most extensive playing time of the season, against Buffalo in the finale. Wilson, though, is the prototypical dual threat — even on the same play.
“He does a great job of extending plays,” Garoppolo said. “Sometimes you think there’s nothing there, good pass rush, and there’s a way he gets out of it. I’m trying to imitate that, extend some plays for the defense, and give them a good look at that.”
Players largely didn’t want to comment on Belichick’s press conference, with some saying they didn’t see it, but fullback James Develin liked what he saw from his coach.
“Any time I see that kind of fire out of anybody, whether it’s our quarterback or anybody, it always kind of inspires me,” he said. “Football is an emotional game and I think whenever you wear your heart on your sleeve and show emotion, that’s always great.”