Bill Belichick doubles down on Patriots' innocence in deflate-gate, dares NFL to prove him wrong

Dan WetzelColumnist
Yahoo Sports

Try, if you can, to hit pause, just for a second, on whether Bill Belichick's explanation is plausible or not for why the footballs used by the New England Patriots were underinflated in the first half of the AFC championship game.

Some will agree with every word. Some will be fascinated enough to want more information. Some will never believe him.

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For a moment, whatever. The debate on this is going to go on forever, at least unless the NFL's investigation uncovers video footage of an assistant equipment manager taking a tire needle to a game ball. And based on how bold Belichick brought it in an unprecedented and previously unscheduled media session Saturday afternoon, the czar of the Patriots is confident no such video exists.

Science, defiance and a My Cousin Vinny reference highlighted Bill Belichick's news conference Saturday. (AP)
Science, defiance and a My Cousin Vinny reference highlighted Bill Belichick's news conference Saturday. (AP)

The short of it is this: the Patriots spent the week running all sorts of tests on footballs, simulating how it worked last Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.

What they found was that the way the Patriots prepare the outside surface of their footballs – scrubbing, rubbing, etc. – actually raises the pound per inch levels inside the ball. Once that process ends and the ball reaches an equilibrium, the ball that was once legally measured to be 12.5 psi naturally drops to the illegal level of 11.5. Throw in the climatic differences between a room temperature locker room and a cold playing surface, and it's 1.5 psi or enough to cause this whole kerfuffle.

And that's before Belichick noted variances in measuring gauges and footballs themselves, which because they are made of animal skin, probably should never even be measured to such precise levels.

That's how it happened, Belichick said. That's it.

Why didn't the Colts' footballs also lose pressure? Perhaps they don't prepare the outside of the football the same way and thus don't cause the same internal reaction, he suggested, although he noted he has no idea how Indy does things. He made Indy's measurements irrelevant.

To Belichick, mystery solved; controversy over, how dare anyone question the Patriots' integrity.

"I believe now 100 percent that I have personally and we as an organization have absolutely followed every rule to the letter," Belichick said.

Whether or not that's enough to explain deflate-gate away for you, at least try to appreciate the situation:

This was straight Original Gangster stuff by Belichick, a full-on punch to the face of the league office he has long despised and believes turns nearly every molehill into a mountain either because of general football incompetence or to drive television ratings.

This was a doubling down on the Patriots Way after a near week of shelling from the public and the media as the NFL let them twist in the wind.

This was a preemptive snarl at investigators swarming his franchise, basically calling it all garbage. It assures he'll get no leniency if proven wrong and he clearly doesn't care about that risk. If they come at him, he promised he's coming back with more about how the league itself is incompetent. New England isn't going quietly here.

How much heat is still on Tom Brady over deflate-gate? (AP)
How much heat is still on Tom Brady over deflate-gate? (AP)

"We did everything as right as we could do it," Belichick said. "And we welcome the league's investigation into this matter. I think there are a number of things that need to be looked into on a number of levels."

This was a guy standing up and putting the entire thing on his back, defending himself and his team in a way that is almost never seen. In a world of prepackaged brand protection and mealy mouth prepared statements, this was against almost all known cautious legal and public relations advice. This was a double down.

Bring it, Bill said. You don't know what you're talking about anyway.

Oh, and we're done talking about it, he said. "This is the end of this subject for me for a long time." So don't count on New England discussing it at media sessions next week during the Super Bowl build-up.

And as for his players, this idea that they cheated to win is an insult and they don't take lightly to insults.

"This team was the best team in the AFC in the regular season, the best team in the postseason," he said. "That's what this team is … I'm proud of this team."

This may have been unprecedented in the history of the NFL. Whether you hate Belichick or not, he remains undoubtedly great theater, a one of a kind who after four decades of coaching just doesn't care anymore about whatever he deems nonsense.

You could say there was some Col. Jessup here, the old man daring people who question why he's protecting that wall down at Gitmo. Belichick instead sampled some "My Cousin Vinny" by saying while he now knows more about how football inflation works, he certainly (and thus neither is some gumshoe at NFL headquarters) isn't an expert on everything.

"I'm not going to say I'm the Mona Lisa Vito of the football world as she was in the car expertise area," Belichick said.

He said this with a straight face, an angry, disgusted face. Seriously.

Dead on (foot)balls accurate.

This was some kind of theater.

Like a good scientist, he dared everyone to run their own experiments on his conclusions. He went on to note that a differential of 1 pound per square inch was unnoticeable by his quarterbacks. Two pounds was occasionally caught, but sometimes the players got the tests wrong.

So get off Brady's back, he insinuated. And as an aside, any idea that Belichick was throwing his Hall of Fame quarterback under the bus on the issue is now over. He assured this was now Belichick v. NFL.

If you want to know why players love the guy, this was it.

Belichick even addressed Spygate, at least some, making public his long private contention that the league's reaction to what New England did caused the whole thing to be overblown. He noted that they were taping a defensive coordinator who was making signals, "in front of 80,000 people" and let it slip that "a lot of other teams" were doing the same thing at the time. New England accepted the penalty and soldiered on. The Victim Pats, if you will.

Regardless, this has nothing to do with that, he said. This, he all but scoffed, is just stupid.

"I'm embarrassed to talk about the amount of time I've put into this," he said.

Soon he was gone, although not before promising to focus solely on preparing for the Seattle Seahawks (if the Pats win, it'll be one heck of a trophy presentation).

In short: New England did nothing wrong. New England is innocent. New England is just and ethical. The league office is full of clowns who never considered science.

If commissioner Roger Goodell wants to assert otherwise, well his guys better bring some big-time evidence because Bill Belichick is eager for a fight, and he doesn't lose too many fights.

You think I'm hostile now …

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