The moment the nation had been waiting for finally arrived.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addressed the media at Gillette Stadium Thursday and immediately addressed the controversy known as Deflategate.
Belichick said he was shocked to learn about the balls being deflated and has learned a lot in the past few days.
"I've learned more about this process the last three days than I knew, or had talked about, in the last 40 years that I've coached in this league," a defiant Belichick said to open his press conference. "I had no knowledge of the various steps involved in the game balls, and the process that happened between when they were prepared and went to the officials, and went to the game, so I've learned a lot about that.
"I obviously understand that each team has the opportunity to prepare the balls the way they want, give them to the officials, and the game officials either approve or disapprove the balls and that really was the end of it for me. So I learned a little bit more about this the last couple days."
Belichick suggested Patriots quarterback Tom Brady would be able to provide more information about his preferences related to amount of air he prefers in the football.
"I think we all know that quarterbacks, kickers, specialists have certain preferences on footballs. " Belichick said. "They know a lot more about it than I do. They’re a lot more sensitive to it than I am and I hear them comment on it from time to time so I can tell you and they will tell you that there is never any sympathy whatsoever from me on that subject. Zero.
"Tom’s personal preferences on his footballs are something that he can talk about in much better detail and information than I could possibly provide. I can tell you that in my entire coaching career, I have never talked to any player, staff member about football air pressure. That is not a subject that I have ever brought up. To me, the footballs are approved by the league and game officials pregame, and we play with what’s out there. And that's the only way that I have ever thought about that."
Belichick said the Patriots game balls are kept at the low end of the 12.5-13.5 (PSI) range specifications set by the NFL.
"I've learned about the inflation range situation obviously with our footballs being inflated to the 12.5 pound range, any deflation would then take us under that specification limit," Belichick said. "Knowing that now, in the future, we will certainly inflate the footballs above that low level to account for any possible change during the game. So as an example, if a ball deflated from 13.2 to 12.9, it wouldn't matter. But if it deflated from 12.5 to 12.3, it would, as an example. So we will take steps in the future so we don’t put ourselves in that type of potential situation again."
Belichick said the team continues to cooperate fully with the NFL investigation.
The National Football League’s investigating this situation," he said. "We have cooperated fully, quickly, and completely with every request that they have made [and] continue to be cooperative in any way we can. I have no explanation for what happened and that’s what they’re looking into. I can’t comment on what they’re doing. That’s something that you should talk to them about.
"Again, my overall knowledge of football specifications, the overall process that happens on game day with the footballs is very limited. I would say that during the course of a game... Honestly, never -- probably has happened on an incomplete pass or something -- but I've never touched a game ball. It's not something I have any familiarity with on that. And again, I was completely and totally unaware of any of this that we're talking about in the last couple of days until Monday morning."
After his brief initial remarks to open the presser. Belichick went into great detail about how footballs are dealt with in Patriots practices.
"Let me just say that my personal coaching philosophy and my mentality has always been to been to make things as difficult as possible for players in practice," Belichick said. "So with regard to footballs, I'm sure that any current or past player of mine will tell you that the balls we practice with are as bad as they can be. Wet. Sticky. Cold. Slippery. However bad we can make 'em, I make 'em.
"And any time players complain about the quality of the footballs, I make them worse. And that stops the complaint. So we never use the condition of the footballs as an excuse. We play with whatever, or kick with whatever we have to use and that’s the way it is. That has never been a priority for me and I want the players to deal with a harder situation in practice than they’ll ever have to deal with in the game and maybe that’s part of our whole ball security philosophy. I’m trying to coach the team and that’s what I want to do... I really can't think of anything I would have done differently based on what I knew then, based on what I know now. I told you the one change we did make in the initial start level of football pressure, but that's really about it. It's unfortunate that this is a story coming off two great playoff victories by our football team and our players."