(CNN) — New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Thursday that he was “shocked” to hear allegations that his team’s footballs were under-inflated in violation of NFL rules, a controversy that’s cast a shadow over his team as it prepares for Super Bowl XLIX.
Belichick denied having any knowledge of the situation, including how the footballs got deflated, and how it may have happened, at last Sunday’s AFC championship game — a game that the Patriots won handily, 45-7, over the Indianapolis Colts. He said that he’s learned more about the football inflation process in three days than he has known or talked about in his 40 years in the league.
“In my entire coaching career, I have never talked to any player (or) staff member about football air pressure,” the Patriots coach said. “That is not a subject that I have ever brought up. To me, the footballs are approved by the league … pregame, and we play with what’s out there.”
Belichick — one of the most successful head coaches in NFL history, having won three Super Bowls and 211 games — insisted Thursday he had no explanation how the footballs his team used last Sunday might have gotten deflated under the NFL-required mandate of 12.5 pounds per inch and 13.5 pounds per inch.
But “in the future,” Belichick said that New England’s game balls will be inflated at high-enough levels “to account for any possible change during the game.”
His comments come days after Indianapolis reporter Bob Kravitz broke the news after the Sunday’s game that the NFL was looking into whether the Patriots used under-inflated footballs during the AFC championship contest, a story that quickly got the nation’s attention and the moniker, “Deflategate.” It revolved around the idea that underinflated footballs — which, in this case, were used when New England was on offense — could make them easier to grip, potentially providing a competitive advantage.
ESPN then reported Wednesday, citing NFL sources familiar with a league investigation into the game, that 11 of 12 game balls that the Patriots used on offense were found to be under-inflated.