New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he was ‘shocked’ to learn that footballs his team supplied for the conference championship game weren’t inflated properly and said he didn’t have an explanation for why that happened.
Belichick and the Patriots face possible suspensions, fines and could be stripped of draft picks if a National Football League investigation finds the team broke rules by deflating footballs used in its victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
“In my entire coaching career I have never talked to any player, staff member about football air pressure,” Belichick said at a televised news conference. “That is not a subject that I have ever brought up. To me, the football are approved by the league and officials pregame and we play with what’s out there.”
The NFL’s game operations manual says if a game ball is altered after it’s been approved by the referee, the person responsible “and, if appropriate, the head coach or other club personnel will be subject to discipline, including but not limited to, a fine of $25,000.”
The NFL’s probe found that 11 of the 12 balls supplied by the Patriots and used by their offense in the 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Jan. 18 were underinflated by about 2 pounds per square inch below the league’s 12.5 to 13.5 PSI requirement, according to ESPN.
The incident has become known as “Deflategate” on social media and the NFL is trying to determine whether the Patriots deliberately sought to gain a competitive advantage or compromised the integrity of the most popular U.S. sport. Belichick said the Patriots have been cooperating with the NFL’s investigation.
“I had no knowledge whatsoever about this situation until Monday morning,” Belichick said. “I’ve learned a lot more about this process in past three days than I knew or had talked about in the last 40 years that I’ve coached in this league. I had no knowledge of the various steps in the game balls.”
Footballs that are underinflated can be easier for a quarterback to throw and receivers to catch, particularly in wet or cold conditions. A steady rain fell throughout the Patriots’ win that sent New England to next week’s Super Bowl. In those conditions, a fully inflated ball can feel hard and is more difficult to grip, Super Bowl-winning quarterback Kurt Warner said.
“If you take a little bit of air out of it where you can really compress it with your hand and it can create a little better grip,” said Warner, now an analyst for the NFL Network. “At the same time, I’ve played with some balls that were underinflated. And sometimes there’s too much give to them that it can cause you to have some bad throws as well. It is a lot about preference, but in certain weather conditions it could give you a bit of an advantage.”
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