Pa­tri­ots coach de­fends process

SundayXtra - - SPORTS - By Jimmy Golen

FOXBOR­OUGH, Mass. — Say­ing his team “fol­lowed ev­ery rule to the let­ter,” New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots coach Bill Belichick de­scribed in de­tail how his team pre­pares its foot­balls on game day and de­fended his play­ers from chat­ter that they made it to the Su­per Bowl by cheat­ing.

“At no time was there any in­tent what­so­ever to try to com­pro­mise the in­tegrity of the game or to gain an ad­van­tage,” Belichick said in an un­sched­uled avail­abil­ity Satur­day af­ter­noon, eight days be­fore the Pa­tri­ots will play the Seat­tle Sea­hawks for the NFL cham­pi­onship.

“Quite the op­po­site: we feel like we fol­lowed the rules of the game to the let­ter,” he said. “We try to do ev­ery­thing right. We err on the side of cau­tion. It’s been that way now for many years. Any­thing that’s close, we stay as far away from the line as we can.”

Speak­ing once again with au­thor­ity on a topic he pre­vi­ously pro­fessed ig­no­rance of, Belichick said the team con­ducted an in­ter­nal study on the process of get­ting game balls ready.

Most of the steps are de­signed to make them tack­ier, which has a no­tice­able ef­fect on how it feels, he said, but the process could also af­fect the pres­sure inside the ball, which is harder to tell by touch.

“I’m not a sci­en­tist. I’m not an ex­pert in foot­balls; I’m not an ex­pert in foot­ball mea­sure­ments,” Belichick said. “I’m just telling you what I know.”

The Pa­tri­ots reached the Su­per Bowl for the sixth time in Belichick’s ten­ure when they beat the Colts 45-7 in the AFC cham­pi­onship game Sun­day. But later that night, In­di­anapo­lis TV sta­tion WTHR re­ported that some of the game balls pro­vided by New Eng­land for the use of its of­fence weren’t suf­fi­ciently in­flated.

The NFL said its ini­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­firmed some of the foot­balls used in the first half of the con­fer­ence ti­tle game were un­der­in­flated. On Thurs­day, Belichick de­ferred ques­tions on the game balls to Brady; the quar­ter­back also de­nied any im­pro­pri­ety.

But in the slow news off-days be­fore Su­per Bowl week, the al­le­ga­tions re­ceived dis­pro­por­tion­ate at­ten­tion — and Twit­ter hash­tags such as “Deflategate” and “Ball­g­hazi” — along with com­par­isons to the video­tap­ing scan­dal of 2007, when the Pa­tri­ots were hit with un­prece­dented penal­ties after Belichick was caught record­ing op­pos­ing coaches send­ing in sig­nals from the side­lines.

Belichick de­nied there is a pat­tern of rule-break­ing, or even of push­ing the rules to their limit.

“It was wrong. We were dis­ci­plined for it. That’s it. We never did it again. We’re never go­ing to do it again,” Belichick said of the scan­dal that came to be known as “Spy­gate.”

A foot­ball lifer who only seems happy on the side­lines, if at all, Belichick is known for an ab­so­lute at­ten­tion to de­tail that pre­pares his team for ev­ery imag­in­able sit­u­a­tion.

But in­stead of get­ting ready for the Su­per Bowl, he said he has spent far too much time the past week study­ing the sci­ence and learn­ing about “blad­ders, air gauges, stitch­ing, pres­sure, game day foot­ball prepa­ra­tion, rub­downs and so forth.”

“I’m em­bar­rassed to talk about the amount of time that I’ve put into this...” he said.

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