I believe Tom Brady.
When he stood up there and said, “I had no knowledge of this at all,” I think he’s telling the truth. And when he said he goes over the footballs “Five hours before halftime and doesn’t want anybody touching them after that,” I think he’s also telling the truth. And his statement regarding not “altering the balls in any way,” I think is true as well.
But also I think this goes back a way. This isn’t the first time the Patriots and Tom Brady have played with somewhat underinflated footballs.
When I asked Mark Brunell on Wednesday, before he left for Bristol, CT and his appearances on ESPN if he had ever heard of deflated footballs he quickly responded.
“No,” he texted right back, “but it doesn’t surprise me. I think Tom’s been doing it for a while.”
And that’s probably as close to the truth as we’ll ever find. Somewhere in the past, maybe seven, 8, 9, 10 years ago, Tom Brady mentioned to somebody that he liked the ball with somewhat less air in it. And somewhere along the line, somebody with the ability to do that made it happen. After the officials inspected the balls and before they made it on the field.
And that became part of every pregame for the Patriots.
So when Brady says he had “No knowledge” I think he’s telling the truth. And when Bill Belichick says he was “shocked” Monday morning by the allegations, I think he’s telling the truth as well.
As known cheaters because of what became known as “Spygate” the Patriots are considered a suspicious organization. If this was any other team in the league, it might have never been an issue. And it certainly would have gone away by now.
The NFL revealed on Friday that they had interviewed 40 different people in their investigation (but not Brady) and that they had hired an outside agency to continue the investigation. While the league doesn’t have a good track record in the last 12 months for investigations, this one can’t expect to find much. Brady has said he’s not involved. Belichick says he didn’t know anything about it. So unless some ball boy or equipment manager decides they’re going to come forward and spill the beans, or they’re some secret recording of somebody letting air out of the balls, the ‘”investigation” will end as inconclusive and with nobody charged.
Everybody else is right as well. Hall of Famers John Madden and Troy Aikman said none of this could happen without the quarterback being involved or knowing. But knowing now and knowing 10 years ago is something completely different. Perhaps not any less culpable, but something different.
As we now know, the ball intercepted by D’Qwell Jackson of the Colts was taken to the sidelines as a souvenir. The equipment manager thought that the ball felt squishy and told Head Coach Chuck Pagano. Pagano notified the referee and the balls were inspected at halftime. They were found to be about two pounds per square inch less than the minimum allowed. They were taken out of play. Interestingly enough, the Patriots outscored the Colts 28-0 in the second half. With fully inflated footballs.
The ball being “doctored” is a time-honored tradition in the league. “Doctored” doesn’t always mean illegal. Some guys like it oiled up, scuffed up and beaten, all within the rules, while others like Aaron Rodgers, seem to like it right out of the box. Putting the ball in a microwave to try and warm it up, putting helium in it or taking a few pounds of air out are all illegal acts. Some can happen by chance, others are intentional.
Hard to say what happened here, but somebody knows.
We probably never will.