In his first public news conference since the Deflategate fiasco, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on Thursday said he didn’t "alter the balls in any way."
"I would never do anything outside the rules of play," Brady said in front of a throng of media.
After the Patriots smashed the Colts in the AFC title game on Sunday, rumors and reports about whether Brady, head coach Bill Belichick or anyone in the Patriots organization tampered with footballs by deflating them before the game.
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"I didn’t alter the ball in any way," Brady said. "I have a process before every game where I take the footballs I want to use for the game. Our equipment guys do a great job breaking the balls in for the game. Our equipment guys have a process they go through.
"When I am done, those balls are perfect."
Brady, who laughed off the report Monday, was asked why he was more somber Thursday.
"I thought it was more sour grapes [Monday] than anything," Brady said. "I don’t think anyone knew that there was an issue with the balls."
After SpyGate in 2007, when it was revealed that the Patriots were caught taping Rams practices before a Super Bowl, the Patriots have been asked if they will be known as cheaters.
"I don’t believe so. I always feel like I’ve played within the rules. I’ve never broken the rules," Brady said. "The integrity of the game is important."
Brady was asked whether Belichick is aware of the process that happens before games regarding the game balls.
"Everyone is obviously trying to figure out what happened. I was as surprised as anybody when I heard Monday morning what is happening," Brady said.
Brady, who hasn’t spoken with NFL investigators, didn’t deny that he picks his game balls before the game, saying: "I want to be familiar with the equipment that I am using. … I choose the balls I want to use in the game."
Earlier on Thursday, Belichick said he doesn’t know how footballs became deflated during the game that got his team to the Super Bowl.
But Belichick declined to answer questions after saying he knew nothing until Monday morning about accusations that his team cheated with underinflated footballs in its win against the Colts in the AFC championship game on Sunday night.
The NFL is investigating. Belichick said the team is fully cooperating.
"Tom’s personal preferences on his ball, footballs, are something that he can talk about in much better detail and information than I could possibly provide," Belichick said. "I can tell you that in my entire coaching career I have never talked to any player, staff member about football air pressure."
And Brady did address it, for almost an hour at the podium.
"I have no knowledge of anything. … I don’t know what happened over the course of the process [with] the footballs."
Asked whether he was a cheater, Brady said: "Everyone has the right to believe whatever they want. I’m going to do the best I can to prepare for the Seahawks."