PHOENIX (AP) — Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s pre-emptive strike the previous night took the issue of air pressure in footballs on Super Bowl media day and, well, deflated it.
Not only was the topic rarely raised in questioning of players from both sides Tuesday, but Kraft’s protesting how his franchise is being portrayed seemed to provide the last word on the issue — for now.
In a short appearance at media day, Kraft assessed the impact of his strong statement delivered when New England arrived Monday. During that statement, he said he expects an apology from the NFL when its investigation determines the Patriots did nothing wrong.
“To be honest, I think by and large except for our quarterback they don’t pay much attention to it,” Kraft said of the Patriots’ reaction to the under-inflated footballs controversy. “I think they think it’s a bunch of hogwash. Bill (Belichick) does a good job of making them understand what they have to focus on.
“I’ve gotten a lot of positive comments from them. I just said what I believed.”
Beyond that, the NFL’s investigation of deflated footballs used by New England in the AFC championship victory over Indianapolis gave way to questions about players’ favorite musicians, movies and clothing.
The always dashing Belichick, wearing a hoodie, of course, jeans and flip-flops on the podium, deflected any and all references to the subject. Not that there were more than two or three queries.
Quarterback Tom Brady, clearly at ease and having fun with the varied topics, barely was approached about the issue.
Same thing for the rest of the Patriots, who figure the investigation led by NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash and Ted Wells of the law firm of Paul Weiss will stretch well beyond Sunday’s title game.
For All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, there was an entirely different line of questioning he was thrilled to avoid.
“It feels good not to get any questions asked about my health, no doubt,” said Gronkowski, who was hobbled for the 2012 Super Bowl loss to the Giants. “It feels good to be 100 percent healthy and 100 percent ready to roll for this game and not get a million questions like last time about my ankle.”
For their part, the Seahawks seemed nothing more than amused about the probe into under-inflated footballs.
All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, who on Sunday said he didn’t expect the Patriots to get punished even if found guilty because of Kraft’s close ties to Commissioner Roger Goodell, chuckled when asked if he could tell when a football didn’t have enough air.
“When I get my hands on them I’m trying to return them, not check the pressure,” Sherman said.
Nor is Seahawks center Max Unger, who merely has his hands on the football on very offensive snap.
“People keep asking me if I can feel the difference between pressure of the ball,” Unger said, a touch of wonderment in his eyes. “I’m the center, I touch it every single play. I can’t, if I’m being honest with you. I don’t think it really even matters that much.”
Ah, but to some folks it matters a lot. And, obviously, the NFL is very serious about its investigation.
Defensive tackle Kevin Williams, in his first Super Bowl after spending 11 seasons in Minnesota, understands in part what is driving the air pressure hysteria.
“You would be surprised, a lot of fans are interested in that stuff,” Williams said. “In the end it won’t help you tackle anybody or get anybody on the ground. But at the same time you want everybody to be on the same competitive level.”
But Williams knows how much impact it will have on the Patriots and Seahawks on Sunday.
“Oh man, it is pretty dumb,” he said. “I’m not going to say it is the dumbest thing I have ever heard of — you want guys on the same level — but I have said that it won’t help anybody cover, it won’t help anybody defeat blocks.
“It is not a big issue.”