CHANDLER, Ariz. — The Patriots’ Deflategate scandal was all over the network news and CNN and even the BBC last week, but somehow the story never made it out to Seattle.
“I didn’t even notice,” Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung said from the team’s hotel. “I kind of missed that one. I’m sorry.”
You didn’t watch the Bill Belichick The Science Guy press conference?
“No I didn’t. I don’t watch any of that. I don’t know about it.”
But you are aware of what the Patriots went through in the last week, right?
“No, I’m not.”
You’ve never heard of deflated footballs?
“People are talking about it, but I don’t really know much about it. As far as I’m concerned, the refs check the balls before the game.”
It was everywhere. How do you avoid it?
“I like to read in my spare time, and I don’t watch much TV.”
OK, so Okung was probably pulling our collective leg on that one. Easier to avoid the topic altogether than say something that could end up as the next international scandal.
He wasn’t the only one to stick his head in the proverbial sand.
“We didn’t really pay attention to it,” quarterback Russell Wilson said. “I ignore the noise, I don’t really turn ESPN on, I try to stay away from it. It’s nothing that affects us in any way.”
But the Seahawks were more than happy to play the role of innocent bystanders last week while the Patriots were engulfed in Deflategate. That quote Richard Sherman had about Tom Brady’s trash talk in 2012? Or cornerback Jeremy Lane saying Rob Gronkowski is not that good?
It was all buried beneath an avalanche of deflated footballs.
And the incident — is that the right word for it? — was a good learning experience for the Seahawks, who didn’t get dragged through the mud in the process.
“My awareness is up,” coach Pete Carroll said shortly after the Seahawks landed in Phoenix. “I’m sure everyone else’s around our game will never be the same because of what just happened. It’s an unfortunate situation that [the Patriots] have to deal with now and I’m sure they are doing everything they can to deal with it properly. It’s not an issue for us other than our awareness is increased. This is just another opportunity for us to grow.”
Sherman said he was “indifferent” about it while watching the mess unfold 3,000 miles away.
“It wasn’t really like we cared either way, honestly,” he said. “A little annoyance about having to talk about the same thing over and over, but it’s nothing anybody isn’t used to.”
But, unsurprisingly, the Stanford-educated Sherman had the most prescient observation about the whole ordeal when asked if he expects the Patriots to be punished in any way.
“Probably not — not as long as Robert Kraft and Roger Goodell are still taking pictures at their respective homes,” Sherman quipped. “I think he was just at Kraft’s house last week for the AFC Championship. Talk about conflict of interest. As long as that happens, it won’t affect them at all.”
Sherman was referring, of course, to the photos of Goodell and Kraft posted by the Patriots on their own Twitter feed last Saturday night. Kraft threw a big party at his house the night before the victory over the Colts, and he spent the night hobnobbing with the NFL commissioner. Kraft and Goodell are so close that in an upcoming GQ profile of Goodell, an NFL executive calls Kraft “assistant commissioner.”
Kraft can’t be too happy that the NFL allowed his team’s reputation to be obliterated last week, but if anyone can smooth it over, it’s Goodell and Kraft. In Forbes’ 2014 ranking of the most influential people in sports, Kraft (No. 3) was ranked ahead of Goodell (No. 5), the first time an owner has outmuscled the commissioner.
It has given the Seahawks some interesting theories on what’s going on behind the scenes.
“I think it’s all propaganda, man,” defensive end Michael Bennett said. “Just to get a chance to blow the game up, inflating the game right now, just to make it more worth than what it’s really about. And it’s really just about two great teams playing. I think a lot of people are shying away from that aspect of it. It’s too much about the balls and stuff. Hopefully it’s about the game again.”
The Patriots have enough stress to deal with this week — Deflategate, an impending blizzard that could affect Monday’s travel plans to Arizona, and, oh yeah, preparing for the Super Bowl coming up against the reigning champs.
The Seahawks though? They’re straight chillin’ for now. They know how Super Bowl week works, they don’t have any scandals to worry about, and they were greeted by a massive throng of fans in the desert. The 12th Man had a noticeable presence throughout Super Bowl village and at Sunday night’s Pro Bowl, while the Patriots fans haven’t had a chance to come out to the valley for the festivities.
All the Seahawks had to worry about Sunday was getting booed by the pro-Cardinals crowd at the Pro Bowl when they were shown on the Jumbotron.
“Only thing I’m disappointed in is they won’t give us our gifts from the Pro Bowl, which is kind of dumb,” Sherman said. “The NFL is the only league that punishes the players who actually make the all-star game by not giving them their gifts. It’s supposed to be watches and some other stuff, but we don’t get them so I couldn’t tell you.”
Deflategate likely will die down later this week after Bill Belichick and the Patriots swat away any and all questions about it like Darrelle Revis covering a Colts receiver. Reporters will try their best to squeeze any sort of Deflategate morsel out of Belichick and his players, but we all know they won’t budge. The uncomfortable silences should be entertaining, at least.
The Seahawks, though, are happy to sit back and enjoy the show.
“You just kind of know the twists and turns of Super Bowl week,” Sherman said. “I think the week is still seven days. It’s still the same for us. You’ve got to give out a few more words and a few more speeches, but that’s about it.”