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Belichick avoids direct answers on deflated footballs
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Coach Bill Belichick shed little light Friday in his first public remarks since the report was issued on the Patriots’ use of deflated footballs.

He avoided direct answers to most of the 10 questions he was asked about Tom Brady, backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and how the team was handling the fallout from the investigation.

Brady, who is appealing his four-game suspension, did not speak with reporters after New England’s organized team activity or at a charity event Friday night.

A person familiar with the situation said Brady’s appeal will be heard June 23. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the date hasn’t been officially announced.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft has accepted the team penalty of a $1 million fine and loss of two draft picks.

Asked if he agreed with that decision, Belichick said, “He made a statement on it last week.”

The rest of his answers focused mostly on the need to improve every day and to work hard.

Asked if he was preparing to start the season with Garoppolo as the starter, Belichick said, “I’m just going day by day right now. Everybody’s working hard trying to get better.”

How tough was it to watch the scandal unfold during the past month?

“We’re just working hard every day to come out here and get better, coaches, players, everybody in the organization,” he said.

Did the issue detract from the team’s enjoyment of its Super Bowl win over the Seattle Seahawks?

“That’s a long time ago,” Belichick said.

“We’re on to next year.”

Brady spent the workout lofting passes, handing the ball off and waiting his turn while other quarterbacks got theirs.

At a charity touch football game Friday night, Brady was relaxed and smiling. He played quarterback for both teams, raising his arms after a touchdown pass, exchanging high fives and clutching his head with both hands when a pass was dropped.

The event benefited Best Buddies International, which helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Brady is honorary co-chair of the organization.

After the game, Brady told the crowd at Harvard Stadium, “Thanks guys. What a great night we had.”

But he departed from his usual practice of speaking with reporters at the event.

In a 243-page report issued May 6, NFL investigator Ted Wells found that Patriots employees violated NFL rules covering game balls and that Brady was “at least generally aware” of plans to doctor the footballs to his liking.

The following night at an appearance before a friendly crowd at Salem State University, Brady said he hadn’t read the report and would reserve comment. He did say “absolutely not” when asked if the investigation tainted the Super Bowl win.

On May 11, the NFL announced its punishment.

But it was business as usual on Friday on the third and final day of OTAs this week.

“It’s cool being on this team and in this atmosphere just because you wouldn’t know (about) everything going on outside when you come in this building,” safety Devin McCourty said. “Every day we come in here, coach Belichick has a list of stuff we need to get done in practice.

“Guys are so focused on those little things and trying to get better that we really don’t have time to focus on other stuff.”

Brady took nearly every snap last season. But he may not take any in the first four games this year.

“We’re not even thinking about the first four games,” said Julian Edelman, Brady’s top receiver. “We’re still thinking about trying to get this offense going and learning everyone’s names.”

That’s the approach Garoppolo, last year’s second-round draft pick, is taking.

His thinking with Brady facing a four-game suspension?

“I just have the mindset I’m trying to get better,” Garoppolo said. “That’s all you can control at the end of the day.”

With no contact permitted during OTA’s, players participated in 11-on-11 drills and quarterbacks threw passes with only one receiver and one defender.

“Being back on the field kind of brings a calmness,” McCourty said. “It’s where everyone’s comfortable at, not all the other stuff that goes into being in the NFL, but the actual football part of being in this league.”