FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Tom Brady tried to acquit himself, tried to smile and politely answer every question fired his way and slide out of the way of blame in the latest scandal to rock the Super Bowl-bound New England Patriots.
But apparently, he didn’t try hard enough. By the time he walked off the podium following a half-hour Thursday afternoon presser at Gillette Stadium, he’d provided so few legitimate answers about the mysteriously deflated footballs from the AFC championship game that many still labeled him a liar and one former NFL QB was on the verge of tears.
« I just didn’t believe what Tom Brady had to say, » said former Jaguars and Jets quarterback Mark Brunell, now an analyst for ESPN. « That was a tough one to swallow. »
Brunell’s voice cracked on air, and he seemed ready to cry. A day earlier, Brunell had called for Brady to take ownership of the situation in a separate segment, even doing a demonstration in which he instantly picked out a football that had been lightened to 11 PSI.
Brunell wasn’t alone in his frustration, either. Hall of Fame QB Fran Tarkenton called himself a « great fan of Tom Brady, » but he firmly believes the Patriots leader was hiding something.
« Today, the quarterback looks at the pressure of the ball, grips the ball, he’s in control of the ball, » Tarkenton said on FOX New Channel’s « Your World with Neil Cavuto. »
« Tom Brady knows exactly what was done to the ball or what wasn’t done with the ball as every other quarterback in the National Football League (does) . .. .. Nobody is going to touch the ball in that locker room but Tom Brady.
« I thought in the press conference he was very uncomfortable because he knows, » Tarkenton added. « . . . I don’t know if it’s a stupid rule. It’s a rule and he should follow the rules and they broke the rules. »
Not everyone was that hard on Brady. Former QB Bobby Hebert said Brady was not lying but « it’s almost a half-truth. »
« I’m just speculating here, » said Hebert. « I don’t think Tom Brady told the ball boys what to do with the balls that day, but he’s been there so long, they know how he likes them . . . I don’t know who’s going to fall on the sword, but whoever handles those balls knows exactly how Brady likes those balls. » Not that the Seattle Seahawks, New England’s Super Bowl opponent, are worrying about the circus that’s consuming the AFC champs.
« I don’t care, » Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner said of the weight of the Super Bowl footballs. « They can be flat. They can be pumped. Someone has to hand them off and someone has to catch them. » He added that he hasn’t lost any respect for New England.
« They’re winners, » he said. « They’ve done this for a long time. I’ve watched them – growing up – winning. I have respect for them. »
If only ex-players agreed. To former Steelers great Jerome Bettis, also an analyst for ESPN, Brady’s explanations left him « disappointed. »
At one moment, Brady had claimed he liked the ball at 12.5 PSI, the minimum allowed by the league, but he later said he couldn’t discern a difference in the footballs on gameday, even in the second half on Sunday, after the illegal balls had been replaced. Hebert couldn’t ignore that gameday ignorance.
« That’s B.S., » he said. « You know if it’s rock hard or has a little give. »
« Tom Brady said he likes the ball at 12.5 PSI, but also said he can’t tell the difference, » an incredulous Bettis added. « For a quarterback who holds the ball, who makes his living handling the ball, I’m very disappointed. »
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