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So far, Tom Brady’s response to the Deflate-Gate report is dead air.
The star quarterback — arguably the most marketable commodity in the NFL — has yet to answer the suggestion that he and two New England Patriots functionaries schemed to doctor footballs to his liking.
On Thursday, Brady’s agent sharply criticized the report. Brady himself is scheduled to be interviewed Thursday night at an event at a Massachusetts university. In January, he spoke at length about the furor on several occasions. Here’s a look back at what he said.
Jan. 19: The morning after
Hours after the Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game, Brady was a guest on WEEI sports radio in Boston. Suggestions were just beginning to surface that the Patriots had underinflated footballs to make them easier to handle.
HOST: Some reports postgame last night that the league is looking into that the Patriots, your team, were deflating the balls within the game. Have you heard about this story? Do you know the story I’m talking about?BRADY: No, I don’t.HOST: Would you care to tell me if you were deflating balls?BRADY: [Laughing] No. I have no idea.HOST: You know what — so they say, you know, that the acceptable limit’s between 12½ and 13½ pounds, I guess, per square inch. If they deflate it more, you can grip the ball better. Did you get the sense that you were able to grip the ball better than the Colts last night?BRADY: [Laughing]HOST: Would you care to weigh in on that?BRADY: [Laughing] I think I heard it all at this point. Oh, God.HOST: We were trying to figure out whose job it is to take the air out of the ball. I’m pretty sure it’s Bob Kraft’s.BRADY: It’s nobody’s. It’s nobody’s. No, God, it’s ridiculous.
Jan. 22: The press conference
Three days later, as questions about Deflate-Gate engulfed the league, Brady gave a press conference. He talked for more than a half-hour and appeared taken aback by the whole drama. He categorically denied wrongdoing.
Here is what Brady said that day, per the Patriots’ transcript.
PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS: This has raised a lot of uncomfortable conversations for people around this country who view you as their idol. The question they're asking themselves is, ‘What's up with our hero?' Can you answer right now: Is Tom Brady a cheater?BRADY: I don't believe so. I feel like I've always played within the rules. I would never do anything to break the rules. I believe in fair play, and I respect the league and everything they're doing to try to create a very competitive playing field for all the NFL teams. It's a very competitive league. Every team is trying to do the best they can to win every week. I believe in fair play and I'll always believe in that for as long as I'm playing.
Other reporters tried to pin Brady down further, and they asked him about his ball-handling preferences.
REPORTER: Are you comfortable that nobody on the Patriots side did anything wrong?BRADY: I have no knowledge of anything. I have no knowledge of any wrongdoing —REPORTER: Are you comfortable that nobody did anything?BRADY: Yeah, I'm very comfortable saying that. I'm very comfortable saying that nobody did it, as far as I know. I don't know everything. I also understand that I was in the locker room preparing for a game. I don't know what happened over the course of the process with the footballs. I was preparing for my own job, doing what I needed to do.REPORTER: A few years ago you said you liked the ball deflated. You were quoted saying you like throwing a deflated ball. Explain that comment in the context of what you're dealing with this week.BRADY: I obviously read that I said that. I like them at the way that I like them, which is at 12.5. To me, that's a perfect grip for the football. I think that particular term, deflated or inflated, whatever norm you're using, you could probably use. I would never do anything outside of the rules of play. I would never have someone do something that I thought was outside the rules.REPORTER: So you never knowingly played with a football that was under 12.5-pounds?BRADY: No.
He was also pressed about the chain of custody of NFL game balls. This was a critical part of the NFL-commissioned report, which strongly suggested that a Patriots locker room manager and an equipment manager deflated footballs to Brady’s liking.
The report pointed out that Brady had gone six months without speaking to one of them, then communicated with him six times in three days after the story broke. Back in January, Brady distanced himself from the process.
REPORTER: Who handles the balls after the refs hand it back to team custody?BRADY: I have no idea. That's not part of my process.REPORTER: Is it a ball boy or equipment manager?BRADY: I have no idea. I'm preparing for the game. I would never be a part of that.
And in what may have been the press conference’s most absurdist moment, Brady sought to put the matter in perspective by invoking the terror group ISIS.
REPORTER: Have you heard from former players or teammates about this controversy?BRADY: I've had a lot of great support from a lot of people and I think in a situation like this, it's a very … Like I said, sometimes some of the toughest things you deal with end up being the best things because you realize the people that you can rely on that love you and support you through something like this. I appreciate all their support. I tell them, ‘I'm OK. Things are going to be fine. This isn't ISIS. No one's dying.' But we'll get through this and hopefully we can really start preparing for Seattle and get our mind focused there because they're going to take all my mental energy for the next 10 days.
He did offer an account of his conversations with the equipment staff:
REPORTER: Have you reached out to the equipment staff to see if they did anything to the footballs?BRADY: Yeah, and they haven't, and I believe them, and they also know how I like the balls, and I tell them how great they are before the game — ‘Perfect job, great job'. So, they know how I like it, and that's exactly the way they are.
Feb. 1: The Super Bowl interview
Before the Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, Brady granted an interview to Bob Costas of NBC Sports. Deflate-Gate had dominated the two-week layoff between the AFC championship and the big game.
COSTAS: The league’s investigation will not be concluded until after the Super Bowl. So these are questions, not accusations. If Tom Brady can tell the difference between 12.5, which is the minimum allowable, and 13.5, which is the maximum allowable, and if the ball was inflated to something less than 12.5 — 11 or 11.5 — wouldn’t he have been able to feel that? He’s a pro. He’s been doing it his whole life. Wouldn’t he be aware?BRADY: Well I think that’s — it’s all up to the individual. On that particular night, I was facing a great defense. You know, it was a wet, chilly night. Things are happening pretty quick. The last thing I was thinking about was how the ball was inflated.
Costas questioned how any underinflation could have taken place without Brady’s knowledge.
COSTAS: Another question frequently asked. Whether it be an equipment guy, a ball boy, whatever. Hard to believe that that person wouldn’t deflate the ball beneath 12.5, the minimum allowable, without at least having the notion that that’s how Tom Brady wants it. Whether you told him that or not. Is that a fair assumption?BRADY: Absolutely. You know, I can understand why people feel that way. You know, there’s an investigation going on and I’m sure all the things will come out. It’s been a lot of speculation, and I think that’s what led to my hurt feelings. You know, hopefully the facts come out. And, you know, we understand that, you know, whatever happened happened, and, you know, it’s not gonna have an effect on this game. And, you know, we can move forward.COSTAS: Are you confident that in the end that fans will be able to say, ‘I have no doubt about Tom Brady,’ that he’s on the up and up?BRADY: Well, I think, look, everybody’s entitled to an opinion. And, you know, when you play for one NFL team, there’s 31 other NFL teams out there, and they’re probably not much of a fan of you. I mean, if people want to feel whatever they feel, that’s — I have no problem with that. They’re certaintly entitled to those beliefs and those feelings. I realize it’s not about me. Not a lot of people know who I am and know what I’m about.
Costas mentioned so-called Spygate, the 2007 scandal in which the Patriots were penalized for videotaping the defensive signals of the New York Jets, then turned back to Deflate-Gate.
COSTAS: Do you subscribe to the belief that it’s closer to gamesmanship than it is to anything worse than that?BRADY: Well, like I said, I’d like to just wait for the facts to come out before you can talk about any of those things. You know, in some ways to make judgments based on things that I know nothing about, you know, is not really fair to whatever the process will end up being. So we’re under tough scrutiny, you know. We’ve won a lot of games. You know, people are very critical of what we do. They’re critical of a lot of teams, though.COSTAS: What I hear you saying is: No matter what may or may not have happened, you had no prior knowledge of it.BRADY: You know, look, I’ve talked about that in the past and I don’t want that to continue to be a story about this particular game. All the facts will come out after the Super Bowl, and however those facts come out, that’ll be news to me as well. That process will take place at some point. I’m excited about the Super Bowl.