The New England Patriots are brushing off and even finding humor in questions about whether they used under-inflated footballs in the game that put them in the Super Bowl.
The NFL hasn’t indicated how long its investigation will last into whether the team improperly let air out to make balls easier to throw and catch. That raises the possibility that it could extend into next week when the Patriots and Seattle Seahawks will be in Arizona preparing for the Super Bowl on Feb. 1.
A Seahawks spokesman said the team would defer to the league on the matter.
The NFL has said it is reviewing whether the Patriots manipulated footballs during their 45-7 home win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game Sunday night. Deflating a football can change the way it’s gripped by player or the way it travels through the air. Under NFL rules, each team provides balls each game for use when its offense is on the field. The balls are inspected before the game, then handled during the game by personnel provided by the home team.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady says the investigation is the least of his worries. And tight end Rob Gronkowski tweeted a photo of himself spiking the ball with the words: “WARNING GRONKING MAY CAUSE DEFLATION.”
Belichick on Tuesday deferred questions about the investigation, saying reporters should ask league officials. NFL officials declined comment except to say the investigation was still pending.
Belichick earlier said he wasn’t aware there was an issue until Monday morning and promised to “cooperate fully with whatever the league wants us to, whatever questions they ask.”
Special teams captain Matthew Slater said the Patriots “try to do things the right way. We work hard at our jobs, our professions, to be successful and it’s unfortunate that things like this come up, but that’s life, that’s the world we live in.”
Colts coach Chuck Pagano said he did not notice issues with the football and didn’t specify when asked whether the Colts had reported the issue to officials.
“We talk just like they talk to officials (before the game),” he said. “We have an opportunity to talk to the officials about a lot of things.”
Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman said the balls didn’t feel different than usual.
And defensive tackle Vince Wilfork seemed amused by the matter and didn’t shed any light on it.
“I don’t know anything about that,” he said. “I don’t touch footballs. I tackle people.”