The podium was Tom Brady’s on Thursday afternoon.
The New England Patriots quarterback fielded questions in a packed news conference for over 30 minutes, after reports from Bob Kravitz of WTHR and Chris Mortensen of ESPN indicated that 11 of the 12 footballs on the team’s sideline were underinflated by two pounds per square inch in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.
Brady said he did not alter the balls in any way.
“I was as surprised as anybody when I heard Monday morning what was happening,” he said in his opening remarks.
With regards to whether the underinflation gave the Patriots a competitive advantage in the first half of what was a 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts, Brady said he thought New England won fair and square, and that he didn’t feel a difference over the course of the game but prefers the balls to be inflated to 12.5 PSI.
“From the first half to the second half, I didn’t think twice about it,” Brady said.
The footballs were later reinflated in the second half, though the Patriots did not know of an issue with them before then, according to Brady. However, the quarterback noted he understood the importance of the issue itself, which the NFL is currently investigating.
“It’s very serious. This is a very serious topic,” Brady said. “Obviously, the integrity of the sport is very important.”
The three-time Super Bowl champion, now heading to his sixth appearance alongside head coach Bill Belichick, recalled that once the equipment team got the footballs ready for the Jan. 18 playoff game at Gillette Stadium, he picked the 24 he wanted to use not different than he usually would.
“I have a process that I go through before every game where I go in and I pick the balls that I want to – the footballs that I want to use for the game,” Brady explained. “Our equipment guys do a great job of breaking the balls in. They have a process that they go through. When I pick those balls out, at that point, to me they’re perfect. I don’t want anyone touching the balls after that. I don’t want anyone rubbing them, putting any air in them, taking any air out. To me those balls are perfect and that’s what I expect when I show up on the field.”
Brady said he spoke to the equipment staff and was told they did not alter the footballs.
The league has not yet contacted him as part of the investigation.
“They may, they may. I think that’s obviously their choice,” Brady said.