Guilty or not, deflategate will leave another mark on Patriots

In what has been a disastrous season for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the AFC Champion New England Patriots have added to his plate. On the surface, deflating footballs below regulation weight sounds more comical than serious.

Surely New England didn’t need much help in destroying the Indianapolis Colts, 45-7, last Sunday. But it looks like the Patriots broke the rules anyway. 

If the St. Louis Rams were caught doing this in Week 8, it would’ve been an amusing one-day story. But when the organization that gave us Spygate is involved, it becomes a national phenomenon. The actual Super Bowl game has been relegated to sideshow status as we try to understand what happened with those 11 footballs in Foxboro, Mass.

The face of 2007’s Spygate saga, Bill Belichick, issued a strong denial Thursday. He seemed disgusted by the very idea that he had time to worry about the condition of footballs.

"I was shocked to learn of the footballs on Monday," Belichick told a packed room. "I had no knowledge until Monday morning."

Whether or not it was intentional, he shifted the focus to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. And that’s why Brady will command more attention than usual Thursday afternoon. Belichick told reporters that Brady would know far more about the topic.

"In my entire coaching career, I have never talked to any player or staff member about football air pressure," Belichick said.

In this setting, Belichick seemed to realize what was at stake. He can’t afford for his remarkable career to be further tarnished. I’ve heard players insist that coaches aren’t aware of how footballs are doctored, so there’s a chance Belichick won’t be punished.

Now, it will be fascinating to see how Brady performs under this type of scrutiny. You have to think he’ll also deny giving any orders for balls to be tampered with. No matter what, there’s no way the NFL will suspend him or his head coach for the Super Bowl. 

The Patriots may end up throwing a ball boy overboard, but this scandal will still leave a mark. Cheating seems to be in the Patriots’ DNA even though it’s unnecessary. 

It’s pretty brazen to try something this obvious when most of America already thinks you’re up to something. If it turns out that Belichick’s lying, he should receive a harsh punishment.

I don’t think he is. But he’s probably guilty of creating and fostering a culture where stuff like this happens.

What’s sad is that in NFL circles, the most vilified team is probably the Indianapolis Colts for blowing the whistle.

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