Foxboro, MA (SportsNetwork.com) - New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he was "completely and totally unaware" of the situation involving his team's reported use of underinflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game against Indianapolis.
Speaking at a regularly scheduled press conference on Thursday before the Patriots begin preparations for the Super Bowl, Belichick made a lengthy statement about the controversy then deflected the few questions from the assembled media.
"When I came in Monday morning, I was shocked to learn of the news reports about the footballs," Belichick stated. "I had no knowledge whatsoever about this situation until Monday morning. I learned a lot more about this process in the last three days than I knew or had talked about in the last 40 years that I coached in this league."
The Patriots rolled to a 45-7 win over the Colts last Sunday in a rain-soaked game at Gillette Stadium and reports began to surface in the hours after the contest that balls were not correctly inflated, which would apparently allow for a better grip in inclement weather.
Citing league sources, ESPN.com reported Tuesday night that 11 of the 12 balls used by the Patriots during the game were underinflated by two pounds of air pressure per square inch (PSI).
NFL rules mandate game balls, which are inspected by the referee, be inflated to 12 1/2 to 13 1/2 PSI.
Belichick said he had "no knowledge of the process" of how footballs were prepared and what the officials did with them, although he knew that each team had the opportunity to shape them as they saw fit before officials took a look at them.
"In my entire coaching career, I have never talked to any player, staff member about football air pressure," he added. "That is not a subject that I have ever brought up. To me, the footballs are approved by the league and game officials pregame and we play with what's out there."
The only time Belichick said he considers how footballs are prepared is during practice.
"My personal coaching philosophy and my mentality has always been to make things as difficult as possible for players in practice," said Belichick. "Any current or past player of mine would tell you the balls we practice with are as bad as they can be -- wet, sticky, cold, slippery. However bad we can make them, I make them. Any time that players complain about the quality of the balls, I make them worse and that stops the complaining."
Belichick said the Patriots will take steps in attempt to make sure the inflation range does not become an issue in the future by overinflating the balls so there will be no margin of error.
"As an example, if a ball deflated from 13.2 to 12.9 (PSI) it wouldn't matter," he noted. "If it deflated from 12.5 to 12.3 it would."
As far as personal preference for quarterbacks, kickers and specialists, Belichick said that was something his MVP signal-caller Tom Brady could talk more about.
Brady was expected to meet later with the media to discuss the issue.
Belichick said it was unfortunate that this issue has clouded the team's two playoff wins and added that the Patriots will continue to cooperate with the league's investigation.
After the nearly 8 1/2-minute statement, Belichick wouldn't comment further when pressed by reporters.
"I told you everything I know, there's nothing else I can add to it. I have no explanation for what happened," were his answers several times to questions.
If the NFL finds the Patriots deflated footballs intentionally, they could be subject to penalties similar to ones levied after the team was found to have videotaped defensive signals used by the New York Jets during a game in September 2007.
Those penalties included a $500,000 fine for Belichick, a $250,000 fine for the team and the loss of a draft pick.