Tom Brady said he likes footballs to be inflated to precisely 12.5 pounds per square inch of pressure. "Perfect for a football," Brady noted. He said that prior to a game, after inspecting them for grip, feel and pressure, he personally selects the dozen footballs that will be used that day. At that point, he said he wouldn't want anyone "touching" them.
At other points in the same news conference on Thursday, the New England Patriots quarterback said that when he took a snap or threw a pass in Sunday's AFC championship game blowout of the Indianapolis Colts, he couldn't tell the difference between an apparently underinflated ball and the properly (we guess) inflated balls the referees reportedly brought in for the second half.
Is Tom Brady telling the truth? Is he lying? Can both scenarios be possible?
Is it remotely plausible that some unnamed, unknown, mystery equipment manager altered the footballs without Brady's knowledge and approval … or did 11 of the Patriots' footballs, but not one of the Colts, nor apparently 12 more backup footballs from the Patriots, lose pressure naturally?
Your opinion on this is likely based on how you view the Patriots. Or whether you care at all.
Before we get further into this, none of the above was even close to the most interesting, newsworthy or confusing thing Brady revealed at a lengthy news conference after Super Bowl practice in Foxborough. It's this: Brady said he has yet to speak to anyone from the NFL about the subject, which was supposedly being "investigated" ever since the footballs were seized during Sunday's game.
Since Sunday evening, no one from the NFL has spoken to the man at the center of the entire situation? No one? Not at all? Not one word?
What kind of investigation is this? Wait, don't answer that. It's an NFL investigation.
"We are not commenting on the details of the review at this point," an NFL spokesman said.
In real cops and robbers cases it's not unusual for the police to attempt to build a case before attempting to speak to the main subject. That way they know exactly what to ask if the suspect actually speaks to them. This isn't real cops and robbers. Tom Brady does not have the right to remain silent when being asked about the inflation of a football by NFL investigators. This is an internal company probe. The Patriots have been adamant that they would cooperate fully with the league, which isn't saying much because they have to since the league is collectively owned by the franchises.
Brady could refuse to speak but that silence would be held against him. He could be punished for such defiance. The NFL fines people for not speaking to the media, imagine how it works if you "no comment" an investigator?
Brady gave no indication on Thursday that he wasn't willing to answer any and all questions the NFL might throw at him. His news conference ran for over a half an hour. He pleasantly took any and all unscripted queries from a pack of reporters. He sounded like a guy with nothing to hide, confident in his story even as other NFL players past and present weren't buying much of it.
So why hasn't the NFL spoken to him? Why didn't it get an initial interview and then keep coming back looking for discrepancies? Why didn't it try to use Brady's word against those of equipment managers, sideline attendants and anyone else who could have possibly altered the pressure of the football?
Until the NFL explains exactly what it has and hasn't been doing, and why, since Sunday night as the sport has become consumed with deflate-gate, then it's a challenge to see this as anything but a joke. That it could come after the league's much botched Ray Rice case is even more stunning. Or not.
If there's an explanation, football is waiting for it.
Until then, the Patriots have put forth the story that no one knows much of anything, particularly how the footballs wound up underinflated. Coach Bill Belichick said it's nothing he concerns himself with and that doing such a thing runs counter to his deal-with-it, no-excuses style of coaching.
On Thursday morning he told everyone to talk to Brady. A few hours later, Brady said the footballs felt great when he selected them pregame and were turned into the referee for proper measuring. After that, he noticed nothing. Not that they were correct, underinflated or back to correct.
He said he didn't order anyone to deflate the ball and knew of no one who did. He said he asked the Patriots equipment men about it, they denied doing anything and "I believe them." This may be more than the NFL has done.
So it's all a magical mystery. Brady is as confused as anyone.
"I didn't feel any different," Brady said of the footballs from pregame, to first half to second half. "I would just assume it was the same thing …
"I wouldn't know on a particular play. It was a wet, cold, windy night," he continued. "I get the snap, I grip it, I try to throw the ball. I don't try to squeeze [the football] … [I] didn't feel the difference between the first half and the second half when they were supposedly even more inflated. I didn't notice anything different."
He actually was statistically better in the second half, for whatever that's worth.
"I would never do anything outside the rules of play," Brady said. "I would never have someone do something outside the rules."
You either believe Tom Brady or you don't. You either believe he instructed someone to lighten the ball, or you think it just somehow happened, or you believe a low-level Patriot staffer went rogue on the future Hall of Fame quarterback before the biggest game of the season.
Whatever. The debate will rage. It will rage forever unless the NFL finds a smoking air pump. Otherwise, it's a whodunit.
"I think over the last few days everyone is trying to figure out, as the NFL is trying to figure out … what happened," Brady said.
Well, everyone appears to be trying harder than the NFL.