What was the Accusation?
After the National Football League’s 2015 AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts, the NFL began investigating claims that New England quarterback Tom Brady had used balls inflated below the league minimum requirement of 12.5 PSI (pounds per square inch). The allegation was that Brady deliberately deflated or had someone deflate for him the balls so that he could get a better grip on them during colder weather. The controversy escalated as defenders of Brady would claim that balls naturally deflate under certain circumstances and that he clearly had no advantage in using under-inflated balls. After all, the Patriots outscored the Colts 28-0 in the second half alone after all the balls were re-examined. Brady himself called the accusations “ridiculous,” saying “I don’t even respond to stuff like this.” He would later hold a press conference in which he would address the accusation more specifically, but would continue to deny that he knew anything about deflated balls. The league believed there was enough evidence, though, to suspend Brady for four games to begin the following season.
Key Apologia Strategies:
Tom Brady: Obviously I’d much rather be up here talking about the Seahawks and preparing for the Super Bowl, which we’ve been trying to do for the last few days. I know Coach [Bill] Belichick addressed it with you guys this morning and I wanted to give you guys the opportunity to ask [The]questions that you want. I’ll do my best to provide the answers that I have, if any, and we’ll go from there.
Q: When and how did you supposedly alter the balls?
TB: I didn’t have any … I didn’t alter the ball in any way. I have a process that I go through before every game where I go in and I pick the footballs that I want to use for the game. Our equipment guys do a great job of breaking the balls in. they have a process that they go through. When I pick those balls out, at that point to me they’re perfect. I don’t want anyone touching the balls after that. I don’t want anyone rubbing them, putting any air in them, taking any air out. To me those balls are perfect and that’s what I expect when I show up on the field. That happened obviously on Sunday night. It was the same process that I always go through. I didn’t think anything of it. Obviously I woke up Monday morning and answered a question on the radio about it and that was the first I really hard about it.
Q: This has raised a lot of uncomfortable conversations for people around this country who view you as their idol. The question they’re asking themselves is, ‘What’s up with our hero?’ Can you answer right now, is Tom Brady a cheater?
TB: I don’t believe so. I feel like I’ve always played within the rules. I would never do anything to break the rules. I believe in fair play and I respect the league and everything they’re doing to try to create a very competitive playing field for all the NFL teams. It’s a very competitive league. Every team is trying to do the best they can to win every week. I believe in fair play and I’ll always believe in that for as long as I’m playing.
Q: Some people think Coach Belichick threw you under the bus this morning, do you feel that way?
TB: No, I think everyone is obviously trying to figure out what happened. I think that’s the main thing over the last couple days. It’s trying to figure out what happened. Like I said, I was as surprised as anybody when I heard Monday morning what was happening. I think over the last few days people have been trying to figure out … as the NFL is trying to figure out … what part of the process and from when I saw the ball which was five hours before halftime, what exactly happened.
Q: Do all quarterbacks doctor the balls and have you done anything differently from anyone else in the league?
TB: I’m not sure. I can only speak for myself. I think that there’s a process that everybody goes through breaking in footballs. It’s probably a lot like a baseball mitt when you’re a kid. I try to explain that to my friends a lot. When you use it and that’s your equipment, the football is something that I handle on every play. I want to be very familiar with the equipment that I’m using, just like my cleats, just like my helmet, just like my pads. You go through that process of breaking the balls in and getting comfortable with them. Of course I choose the balls that I want to use for the game and that’s what I expect to go out on the playing field with.
Q: How important is it for you to get this out of the way and take this head-on so you can get focused on the Super Bowl?
TB: That’s where the importance is, as far as I’m concerned. I know this is a very important thing and that’s why I’m here addressing it. I know my teammates, we accomplished something really special getting to this point. I don’t like the fact that this is taking away from some of the accomplishment of what we’ve achieved as a team. I think hopefully our best is still to come. We’re going to work as hard as we can over the next 10 days to put ourselves in a great position to be prepared for the game.
Q: Do you know the difference between an under-inflated ball and an over-inflated ball? Did you notice a difference in the balls used in the first half and second half?
TB: From the first half to the second half, I didn’t think twice about it. I didn’t put one thought into the football at that point. Once I approve the ball, like I said, that’s the ball that I expect out there on the field. It wasn’t even a thought, inkling of a concern of mine that they were any different. I just assumed that they were exactly the same: first half, second half.
Q: What do you say to the skeptics that say, ‘The Patriots have had violations before. How can we possibly believe what Brady and the coach are saying now?’
TB: Everybody has an opinion. I think everybody has the right to believe whatever they want. I don’t ever cast judgment on someone’s belief system. If that’s what they feel like they want to do, then I don’t have a problem with that. I think part of being in this position and putting yourself under a spotlight like this and being open for criticism, I think that’s very much a part of being a professional athlete. We can only express to you what our side is and how we approach it. Then everyone is going to make their own [conclusion].
Q: Are you comfortable that nobody on the Patriots side did anything wrong?
TB: I have no knowledge of anything. I have no knowledge of any wrongdoing …
Q: Are you comfortable that nobody did anything?
TB: Yeah, I’m very comfortable saying that. I’m very comfortable saying that nobody did it, as far as I know. I don’t know everything. I also understand that I was in the locker room preparing for a game. I don’t know what happened over the course of the process with the footballs. I was preparing for my own job, doing what I needed to do.
Q: A few years ago you said you liked the ball deflated. You were quoted saying you like throwing a deflated ball. Explain that comment in the context of what you’re dealing with this week.
TB: I obviously read that I said that. I like them at the way that I like them, which is at 12.5. To me, that’s a perfect grip for the football. I think that particular term, deflated or inflated, whatever norm you’re using, you could probably use. I would never do anything outside of the rules of play. I would never have someone do something that I thought was outside the rules.
Q: So you never knowingly played with a football that was under 12.5-pounds?
Q: Have you tried to find out why the balls were under-inflated?
TB: That’s a great question. I think there are a lot of people that have more information than me. I only know what I’ve kind of gone through and the process I’ve taken as part of the game and the postgame, as well as trying to prepare for the Super Bowl. Yeah, I have questions, too. But there’s nobody that I know that can answer the questions that I have. I just have tried my best to focus on what I need to do, to be prepared for Seattle.
Q: If you know the look and feel of the football that you like, do you think there could have been other games where you played with an under-inflated football?
TB: I don’t know. Like I said, once I’m out on the field, I’m playing. I have no thought of the football at that point. I’m thinking about the defense, I’m thinking about the execution of the play and what I need to do. I’m not thinking about how the football feels. I grip the football …
Q: Are you wondering if you’ve played with an under-inflated ball before?
TB: I have no idea. I have no idea. This was the first that I’ve heard of it. Obviously on Monday morning, was the first that I heard of it.
Q: If it’s found that someone improperly tampered with the balls, is it important to you that someone is held accountable?
TB: I’m not the one that imposes [that] type of accountability. It’s discipline and all that, that’s not really my job. Obviously I’d like to know what happened, as you all would, too. In the meantime, I’m going to try to do the best I can to play against the Seahawks. Because I can’t do anything with what’s happened in the past. I have to just go forward with the most awareness I can going forward and trying to be the best I can be for our team.
Q: How does it make you feel that they’re calling your team cheaters?
TB: You know, I think a big part of playing here is trying to ignore the outside forces and influences and people that are maybe fans of our team or not fans of your team or fans of yourself or not fans of yourself. Like I said, everybody is entitled to an opinion. Those opinions rest with those people. I think you can just go out and try to be the best you can be, deal with people with respect, with honesty, with integrity, have a high moral standard. I’ve always really tried to exemplify that as an athlete. I’ll continue to try to do that.
Q: Does this motivate you guys?
TB: We’ve had a lot of motivation. I would say we’ve got a lot of motivation as a team. I think our team has overcome a lot of adversity this year. I think sometimes in life the biggest challenges end up being the best things that happen in your life. We’ve overcome a lot of those this year as a team. So, we can rally around one another and support one another. You can be the best teammate you can possibly be and you can go out and support each other and try to go win a very important game.
Q: Did you address your teammates today and if so, what did you say to them?
TB: Those are very personal things with my teammates. That was very personal comments.
Q: Did you see the footballs before they went to the referees?
TB: Yeah. It’s always the same process. I get here … the playoffs I got here pretty early before the games. Then I go in there and I choose however many balls are necessary for the games. Sometimes it’s 12, 16, 18, 24. This last particular game was 24. I felt them. They were perfect. I wouldn’t want anyone touching those. I would zip those things up and lock them away until I got out on the field and an opportunity to play with them. That’s what I thought I was doing.
Q: We’re you surprised when you heard those footballs had been deflated by two pounds?
TB: Absolutely. That was very surprising to me.
Q: One of your teammates said this was a media thing. Is that your feeling? Is there a feeling behind closed doors that this is being blown out of proportion?
TB: No, it’s very serious. This is a very serious topic. Obviously the integrity of the sport is very important. I think there’s another focus that we have also as a team that guys are very focused on our opponent and the things that we need to do to try to be successful. Everyone is trying to figure out what happened. But at the same time, you have to prepare for the Seahawks also.
Q: You laughed this off on Monday on the radio. Now you’re more somber about it. What happened between Monday and today?
TB: Look, that was real early in the morning. I got home at 12, one o’clock and woke up to do the radio interview and I was very shocked to hear it. I almost laughed it off thinking it was more sour grapes than anything. Then it ends up being a very serious thing when you start learning the things that …
Q: When the start of the second half was delayed and the balls were swapped out, how did you guys on the sideline not know what was going on on the field with respect to the footballs?
TB: I don’t think anybody knew there was an issue with the balls. I think they said, ‘The balls are not ready for play.’ And then I turn around in the huddle and the ball was ready for play. So, I didn’t think anything of it.
Q: Nobody said anything to you on the sideline? It was a good minute delay.
TB: I wasn’t paying attention to what was happening at that time. I don’t remember. Everything was happening obviously so fast in the middle of the game. I was thinking about the series, to go out there and the execution of the game.
Q: The officials didn’t say a word to you?
Q: Do you feel like you had an unfair advantage over the Colts?
TB: I feel like we won the game fair and square. We ended up playing a great opponent and I thought our team went out and played a great game offensively, defensively [AND]special teams. It was a great accomplishment to reach the AFC Championship, to win the AFC Championship and then to have the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl. That was a great feeling after the game. Obviously the next few days and hearing the football issue has taken away from a little bit of that, but hopefully we’ll rally around one another to bring it back to the task at hand which is to try to go out and be the best we can be.
Q: Is this a moment to just say ‘I’m sorry,’ to the fans?
TB: I think it’s disappointing that a situation like this happens. Obviously I’d love to be up here talking about [the game], in a very joyful mood. These are the two best weeks of the year if you happen to be one of the two teams still playing. It should be a great two weeks. I’m obviously very disappointed that we have to be having a press conference like this. I wish I could give you more answers or the answers that you guys were looking for. But I don’t have some of those answers.
Q: For the fans that are watching and looking into that camera, what do you say?
TB: I’m not sure. What would you like me to say? I’m not quite sure.
Q: Does the league have a responsibility to button this up so everybody can move on?
TB: I think they’ll do however they see fit. You know, I think that’s up to their responsibility to do whatever they want to do. That’s kind of usually what happens anyway. Like I said, I know they’re doing their investigation. I don’t know what will happen after that.
Q: Do you feel like you’re hanging in the wind?
TB: No, I think we’re preparing for the Super Bowl. I think this is obviously something we’re having to address, but at the same time, I think we’re focused on trying to go out and beat the Seahawks.
Q: Did the league investigators talk to you?
TB: Not yet.
Q: You said earlier that first the issue seemed minor and then you became it was more serious. What was it that convinced you of the seriousness?
TB: I just wasn’t, obviously, aware Monday morning of everything that had happened. So just as I learned more, you understand that there’s more than what I initially …
Q: What’s so serious about it to you?
TB: Just the integrity of the game. I think that’s a very important issue to always be mindful of as an athlete, and fair play. I think we set a great example for the younger athletes, the younger kids, the college kids, the high school kids. We want to be the ones to set the great example.
Q: Are you frustrated by this process? Are you surprised by the process of what the story has become? What do you hope the end result is going forward?
TB: I’m not sure if I have a hope. I haven’t put much thought into that. It’s been just a short period of time. I’d really love to go out there and play a great game. Obviously the NFL would love to figure out what happened in this situation. I try to keep everything in perspective. I’m happy we have an opportunity to play in the next game. obviously I’m disappointed by the footballs of last game, but I can’t do anything about what happened. I can only try to … I can only do something going forward.
Q: The league has not spoken to or contacted you yet?
TB: No, but they may. They may. I think that’s obviously their choice.
Q: Do you find that odd though?
TB: Sure, yeah, they might. They might.
Q: It’s odd that they haven’t at this point. You’re the quarterback and you’re the center of this story right now and the league’s officials haven’t talked to you indicates to a lot of people they’re letting this drag on.
TB: I’m not sure.
Q: Have you been told they will talk to you?
TB: I’m not sure.
Q: There are people who are going to say, ‘You’re so familiar with the equipment, how could you not know?’ What would you say to them?
TB: I addressed that a little bit earlier. Like I said, I don’t put any thought into the footballs after I choose them. When you’re out there playing in front of 70,000 people, like a home crowd, you don’t think about [IT]. You’re just reacting to the game. I don’t certainly think about the football. I just assume it’s the same one I approved in the pregame.
Q: Do you break the balls in during practice?
TB: We break them in in practice, certainly sometimes. Yeah, we definitely do that. It’s different from game to game. Some days one ball may feel good; the next day it may not. It depends on maybe how, I don’t know, the humidity in the air or how old the ball was. There are a lot of variables with obviously Mother Nature and the balls. Whatever feels good that day, those are the ones I would typically choose.
Q: Those are the same ones that Bill Belichick squirts water on in practice?
TB: Yeah, he does that a lot. It could be, yeah. It definitely could be.
Q: You said you didn’t want the balls to be touched after you approved them. You didn’t notice that 15 percent of the air was out of the ball when you started using it? It didn’t strike you during the first half?
TB: I didn’t feel any different. I would just assume that it was the same thing. Like I said, once I get the ball, I’m dropping back and reading the coverage and throwing the ball. I’m not …
Q: Basketball players would know if the ball was off after taking two shots. Baseball players could pick up a bat and know if it was less than ounce different. You’re asking us to believe that you couldn’t tell 15 percent of the football was deflated and you didn’t notice?
TB: I wouldn’t know on a particular play. It was a very wet, cold, windy night. Like I said …
Q: But [Colts linebacker] D’Qwell Jackson noticed.
TB: I don’t know. I don’t do that. I get the snap, I drop back, I throw the ball. I grip it and I try to throw the ball. That the extent of me touching the football. I don’t sit there and try to squeeze it and determine that. if that’s what the Colts wanted to do, then that’s what they wanted to do. That’s what their decision was. But I certainly didn’t. No, I did not recognize that. I did not feel a difference between the first half and the second half when supposedly they were inflated to the original or even more inflated. I didn’t notice any difference. I didn’t obviously think there was anything different between halves.
Q: When you initially tested the balls, did you think you would have noticed if the balls were under-inflated at that time?
TB: I don’t know. I guess it’s a challenging thing. I’m not squeezing the balls. That’s not part of my process. I grab it, I feel the lace, I feel the leather, I feel the tack on the ball. That’s really what you go for. It’s not like I ever squeeze the football. I just grip the football. I think there’s maybe a little bit of a difference of how I do that.
Q: What about the fact that you had better numbers after they exchanged the balls?
TB: Yeah. Like I said, I didn’t think any differently in the second half as I did in the first half. I know we had a great second half. It was due to great execution by a lot of great football player. Like I said, I know that’s obviously what they said. They inflated them. I didn’t notice a difference. I wish I could tell you something different. I just didn’t notice a difference.
Q: Bill Belichick said the team will inflate the balls over the minimum requirement from now on. Is that going to be an adjustment if 12.5 pounds is what you like?
TB: I don’t think that would make much of a difference. Like I said, I didn’t feel any difference between what was a 13-pound football or an 11-pound football the other night. That is pretty irrelevant to me.
Q: Will you lobby the league to change the rules surrounding this situation?
TB: What situation, what process would that be … about us breaking in our own balls?
Q: Making sure the balls are the proper weight throughout the game.
TB: Yeah, if they want to do that I have no problem with that. I certainly.