PHOENIX – You knew they would be doing their best stiff-arming, Bill Belichick from his podium at Super Bowl XLIX Media Day and Tom Brady from his.
Those pesky questions about “Deflategate” were certain to come their way Tuesday, when the coach and the quarterback and the rest of the New England Patriots would face the largest throng of reporters and photographers they’ll see all week.
And their answers were certain to sound exactly as this one from Belichick: “Well, we’re just focused on Seattle this week. That’s it. So it’s all about Seattle, it’s all about us getting ready to play Sunday. That’s where all of our attention is. I’m not really worried about the rest of that.”
It was the last part of the response that was left open to some second-guessing.
Belichick saying that he was “not really worried” about the NFL’s ongoing investigation into why footballs selected by the Patriots before the AFC Championship Game were found to be illegally deflated at halftime could easily be challenged as much as most everything he has said about the matter when he was talking about it over the weekend. Many of those comments have been scrutinized, and multiple people at Media Day had similar skepticism about what he said Tuesday.
“You can try to avoid it,” said former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner, who was working at the event on behalf of NFL Network. “But when people are asking you questions about it every day, you can’t avoid it. I feel sorry for them to have to deal with this.”
Perhaps no one is carrying a heavier burden than Brady.
Like Belichick, he’s appearing in his sixth Super Bowl. Like Belichick, he has a chance to win a fourth with the Patriots. Like Belichick, his legacy as one of the all-time greats of the game would be greatly impacted by a victory.
“You’re talking about an era when the Pittsburgh Steelers in the ’70s did four,” said Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor, working Media Day as a reporter for Nickelodeon. “Now we’re talking the Patriots doing the same thing in the 2000 era. That’s unheard of, especially with free agency, especially with these mutants/new athletes – bigger, stronger, faster – and Coach Belichick figured it out. Just like Nick Saban figured it out in college football, just like Coach K,” Mike Krzyzewski, “figured it out in basketball.”
But how large of a stain will “Deflategate” and the “Spygate” scandal, when the Patriots were found guilty of videotaping an opponent’s defensive signals in 2007, leave on New England’s remarkable accomplishments?
The closest Brady came to addressing the subject was in answering a question on the support he receives from those closest to him.
“They mean a lot,” the quarterback said. “My parents and my wife, certainly. I’ve got a great support system.”
Brady wouldn’t inch any closer to the impact “Deflategate” is having on him. However, Warner, for one, has a hard time believing it hasn’t impacted his ability to get ready to play in the Super Bowl. “It’s hard enough to prepare,” said Warner, who has played in three Super Bowls and won one. “You have so much time and you’re thinking about it so much. Nobody wants an extra distraction. Even just the idea of sitting back there going, ‘I did nothing, and now people are talking about this could affect my legacy.’
“I want the truth to come out. But for them to have to wrestle with it … and when you’re talking about trying to establish your legacy, for Tom, winning his fourth Super Bowl, you feel terrible for him because nobody wants to have to deal with a controversy in the midst of having to prepare for a Super Bowl.”