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Patriots' Tom Brady: 'I wouldn't do anything to break the rules'

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 1/22/2015 USAToday

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick mounted the same defenses Thursday, each flatly maintaining they had no role in illegally deflating footballs used by the New England Patriots in their AFC title game victory against the Indianapolis Colts -- and having no idea how that might have occurred.

So the mystery continues.

"I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I have no idea what happened," Brady said at a packed news conference as the countdown to New England's Super Bowl XLIX matchup with the Seattle Seahawks continued.

The press conference became raucous at times as media members tried to shout over one another to ask a question. A three-time Super Bowl champion and two-time Super Bowl MVP and league MVP, Brady was asked if he was a cheater.

"I don't believe so," he said calmly. "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."

Brady took the podium at Gillette Stadium about seven hours after Belichick, who also said he had no knowledge of any illegal deflation. Brady and Belichick said they would leave it up to the NFL to determine what happened.

Mark L. Baer, USA TODAY Sports © Mark L. Baer, USA TODAY Sports Mark L. Baer, USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has been conducting an inquiry since the Patriots beat the Colts 45-7 Sunday night. Brady said he had not yet been contacted by the league.

If the NFL interviews Brady and/or other players as part of its investigation, the NFL Players Association intends to represent them.

ESPN reported this week that 11 of 12 balls used by the Patriots on Sunday were inflated two pounds below the minimum pressure mandated by league rules (between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch). One possible impact of that deflation: better grip of a wet ball on a rainy night.

Brady said he had subsequently learned the balls were properly inflated for the second half but noticed no difference during the game.

"From the first half to the second half, I didn't think twice about it. I didn't put one thought into the football at that point," said Brady.

He said that hours before the game, he picked out the 12 balls that would be used by the Patriots. The Colts used their own 12 balls. Under NFL rules, the officials inspect the balls before kickoff.

"I didn't alter the ball in any way," said Brady, explaining he has a "process" to select the balls prior to any game.

"Once I approve the ball ... that's the ball I expect out there on the field," said Brady. "It wasn't even a thought, inkling of a concern of mine that they were any different ... first half, second half."

Wouldn't a professional such as Brady be able to feel a difference?

"I get the snap, I drop back, I throw the ball," said Brady. "I don't sit there and try to squeeze it and determine that."

Brady was first asked about the deflated balls Monday morning during his weekly radio interview with Boston's WEEI. He laughed it off, saying at the time he felt no need to address the situation.

Brady was asked about that rather flippant reaction Thursday.

"I was very shocked to hear it," he answered, "(thought) it was more sour grapes than anything."

He went on to add that the integrity of the game "is a very important issue."

But he later said of the ongoing scrutiny, "this isn't ISIS ... no one's dying."

Belichick likewise pleaded ignorance.

"When I came in Monday morning, I was shocked to learn of the news report about the footballs. I had no knowledge whatsoever of this situation until Monday morning," he said.

"I've learned a lot more about this process in the last three days than I knew or had talked about in the last 40 years coaching in this league. I had no knowledge of the various steps involved in the game balls and the process that happened between when they were prepared and went to the officials (for a pre-game check) and went to the game."

Belichick said the Patriots would make sure footballs are properly inflated in the future.

"Obviously, with our footballs being inflated in the 12.5-pound range (Brady's preference), any deflation would the take us under that specification," said Belichick. "Knowing that now, in the future we will certainly inflate the footballs above that low level to account for any possible change during the game.

"We will take steps in the future to make sure that we don't put ourselves in that type of potential situation again."

Brady said he was "comfortable" saying nobody on the Patriots staff deflated the balls — with a qualifier.

"Yeah, I'm very comfortable saying that nobody did it, as far as I know," said Brady. "You have to also understand that I was in the locker room preparing for a game. So I don't know what happened over the course of the process with the footballs."

Before practice Thursday, Patriots players downplayed the controversy.

"I don't mean to be rude. I don't care," said defensive back Devin McCourty.

Running back LeGarrette Blount was asked if he noticed anything different about the balls he was carrying Sunday.

"I don't know what the proper inflation is but, I mean, you still have to run the ball," said Blount. "That's not really the first thing I look at when I take a handoff."

Special teams ace Matthew Slater said he was focused on the Super Bowl. But he did address the sport's integrity.

"Certainly, I think it's important to us that we respect the game and deal with things in a way that's considered professional and dealing with things in a way with integrity," said Slater.

"So that's important to all of us in this locker room, and I think it's important to all of us in this organization. ... (The controversy is) unfortunate. We'd rather be celebrating our trip to the Super Bowl."

In 2007, the NFL disciplined the Patriots after finding that they illegally videotaped the sideline defensive signals of the New York Jets in the season opener. Belichick was fined $500,000 while the Patriots were fined $250,000 and stripped of a first-round draft pick in 2008.

What discipline might come out of the deflation case remains to be seen.

"I think they'll do however they see fit," said Brady. "I think that's their responsibility to do whatever they want to do. That's usually what happens anyway."

Brady was asked if outside skepticism is warranted given the Patriots' checkered history with the rules.

"Everybody has the right to believe whatever they want," he said.

Contributing: Tom Pelissero, Nate Davis

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Follow Gary Mihoces on Twitter @ByGaryMihoces

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