How should the NFL rule on 'deflate-gate'?

Former NFL players react to the football controversy


This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," January 22, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: In a season full of scandals, the National Football League is once again rocked by controversy.  Now, the New England Patriots are accused of cheating in Sunday's AFC championship win over the Indianapolis Colts by using underinflated footballs. 

Now, the league says the balls were in fact, deflated, but it is still investigating if they were tampered with on purpose.

Now, this morning, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said that he was shocked by the allegations and he denied he had anything to do with the deflating of the footballs.


BILL BELICHICK, PATRIOTS COACH: I've never touched a game ball. It's not something that I have any familiarity with on that. And again, I was completely and totally unaware of any of this that we're talking about in the last couple days until Monday morning.


HANNITY: Now, later in the day, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady spoke to the media. And guess what? He also denied everything.


TOM BRADY, PATRIOTS QUARTERBACK: I didn't alter the ball in any way.  I have no knowledge of any wrongdoing of any...

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) nobody did anything wrong.

BRADY: Yes, I'm very comfortable saying that. I'm very comfortable saying that nobody did it, as far as I know. I don't know everything.

I would never do anything outside of the rules of play.


HANNITY: Here with reaction, former NFL quarterback Joe Theismann.  And former NFL running back Spencer Tillman is back with us, and "Fox & Friends" co-host Brian Kilmeade. And he's now covered the past 18 Super Bowls. He's got the best job in the entire business!


HANNITY: All right, let me start, Joe -- is this something that went on quite a bit? Did, you know, you like a ball a certain weight, like I've read that Aaron Rodgers (ph) likes a ball flated (sic) a little bit more.  You think...

JOE THEISMANN, FORMER NFL QUARTERBACK: Well, that's why they create the variance, Sean. They want to give you that opportunity to go between 12.5 and 13.5 PSI. I mean, if it was locked solid and said it had to be 13, it's impossible to regulate. The balls lose air during the course of a game. They change air.

I preferred a ball that they put in my hand. I didn't really check the PSI, couldn't tell you what it was. I didn't know exactly what it was until day before yesterday, when all the issues and problems started.

But it didn't affect Tom Brady because in the second half, they scored 28 points with a, quote, unquote, "inflated" football. But I think it's a lot to do about nothing.

HANNITY: You do? What do you think, Spencer?

SPENCER TILLMAN, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Well, I think Joe just really nailed (ph) around the head, then. But that's the question that has to be asked, Sean. We like the content, right? But is this content or nonsense?  I tend to think in terms of evaluating whether or not it made a difference in the outcome of the game is absolutely nonsense, but that's really not the issue here.

The issue here is that they cheat. And there's a culture of that with the New England Patriots. That's the difficult truth of this. Everybody's kind of focusing on whether it's the tuck (ph) rule, whether it's this current situation now. But I go all the way back to 1982 in that Miami Dolphins matchup, when the groundskeeper came out and mysteriously found a way to clear a path so that the kicker could make that game-winning field goal. I mean, that goes back a long time. But again, that's part of the process here.

HANNITY: They have this reputation -- first of all, the New England Patriots are hated because they're really good. And a lot of people want to hate Belichick and Tom Brady. I'm actually picking them to win the Super Bowl, Brian. But you know, 2007, the videotape scandal. Then we had a little mini-scandal where they were having receivers eligible and ineligible on the field and trying to throw off the defense of other teams.

BRIAN KILMEADE, "FOX & FRIENDS" CO-HOST: I think it's huge deal.  What I found out today was absolutely fascinating, to see Bill Belichick come out and essentially and say this, Hey, I thought -- hey, I didn't know nothing about it, but I'm the coach, so I'm responsible. Instead, he said, I know nothing. I'll give you my history. He actually got emotional. And then he went back and said, Ask Tom.

Tom Brady's supposed to meet with the press tomorrow, says, I'm having a presser at 4:00. They make it 4:15. He comes out. No statement. I've seen this guy interviewed millions of times. I never saw him so nervous!  He said that...

HANNITY: You mean Belichick?

KILMEADE: No, I never saw Tom Brady so nervous.

HANNITY: Tom Brady? Well, here's what...

KILMEADE: And to me, he did not answer the question of -- he said, The equipment guys alter the balls the way I want, inflate the balls the way I want. Fine. Did you talk to the equipment guys? Yes. OK. So the equipment guys did it the way you want. The balls were deflated, according to Chris Mortenson (ph), during the game the way he wanted. Quarterbacks like Joe Theismann and company and others are saying, When you feel a ball, you understand what you like about a ball. They work it out sometimes in practice the day before. The only thing I find fascinating is the NFL will come up with a verdict tomorrow, yet they haven't talked to Tom Brady yet!

HANNITY: But Joe makes a good point, and that is that, you know, the second half, they scored all those points when they had regularly inflated balls.

Now, here's what I don't understand, Joe Theismann. So two hours and 15 minutes before the game, the refs go and check out the balls. OK.  Smart thing to do. Make sure everybody's honest. Then the question is, why did they leave them with the team? Why don't they take the balls and put them in the hands of an official?

THEISMANN: It was my understanding they were left in the officials' locker room. That was what my understanding was.

But here's the other thing. You talk about the officials, Sean.  Those men during the entire first half of this football game handled the football. The officials handled that football. Nobody ever said a word.  Nobody ever noticed a difference or a variance.

What I'm very curious about is if 11 of the 12 balls were deflated, what were they deflated to? Were they down to 10.5? Were they at 11? Is there a variance in those 11 balls, or were they all consistently the same?


KILMEADE: But I would say this, Joe. I know you're the quarterback.  You won the Super Bowl MVP and you got that huge ring and you oftentimes let me wear it and it's really cool, then you may ask me for it back.

But I would say this. The Colts care. The Ravens care. The players are upset about it. Other management's upset about it. So this isn't the press trying to run with a story or make it too big a deal. These are people inside the game trying to make it a big deal.

THEISMANN: No, I -- listen, I agree...


HANNITY: ... the penalty is minimal!

THEISMANN: But who broke the rules? That's my point. Is it Bill Belichick? That's the thing you have to answer. That's why...


THEISMANN: Well, they made a great point. The New England Patriots, their history has not been stellar when it comes to issues and problems.  So that's part of the problem as it goes.

But I really feel like you have to get all the facts here. What balls -- what was the degree of the balls that were being altered? Who was responsible? Who had access to the balls from the time the refs until that 2 hour and 15-minute period...


THEISMANN: I think those are all questions that need to be answered.

HANNITY: All right, let me bring Spencer back in. I want to play Tom Brady deflecting criticism, Well, this isn't ISIS. I don't know if this is going to go over well. Here's what he said.


BRADY: We're going to be fine. This isn't ISIS. This isn't -- you know, no one's dying. But you know, we'll get through this. And you know, hopefully, we can really start preparing for Seattle, and you know, get our mind focused there because, you know, they're going to take, you know, all my mental energy for the next 10 days.


HANNITY: Now, they -- let's say they did do it, Spencer, $25,000 fine. Worst case, they could lose a draft pick. So there are consequences, right?

TILLMAN: Yes. Absolutely. There's always consequences. But there's a golden rule. We saw Nick Saban (ph) on the college level make this mistake some time ago. You never compare anything to war or 9/11 and those circumstances. There's about three things you kind of steer clear of. You don't want to do that. That was a poor mistake.

But here's the greater point. We live in a world of images and impressions. And I agree with your guest who a moment ago, talked about Tom Brady and also talked about Bill Belichick. I never saw Bill Belichick so more perturbed over a subject that's supposed to be a non-issue. To me, that's problematic.

And then the second point, quickly -- if they can nail exactly how much the variance was between those 11 balls or 12 balls that we know were deflated, that's the key. If they were all consistent -- that is to say deflated to the same amount -- that reflects a preference of someone that's handling that football. And that's the point that needs to be brought out.

HANNITY: Or maybe it doesn't (ph) reflect the weather conditions.


KILMEADE: ... complained about it in the regular season. The Ravens tipped off the Colts that they're still doing it. This is something inside the game.


KILMEADE: ... of the Ravens, Spencer, just said it's akin to PEDs, being caught with PEDs. So you can (ph) say it's that big a deal...


KILMEADE: ... people on the outside are saying that.

THEISMANN: Here's my point...


TILLMAN: As an analyst, I say what I see. That's my job.

THEISMANN: If the Colts mentioned it in the middle of the season and the Ravens brought the point up, why is it such a big deal now? Why wasn't it a big deal then?


THEISMANN: The league just basically ignored the other accusations or the other inquiries? I don't think so. I don't think it was an issue. We don't know. The bottom line is we don't know exactly what happened. We don't know who had access to the balls.


THEISMANN: I feel very, very comfortable in saying that Tom Brady had no part in this. Bill Belichick had no part in this. I feel very comfortable making that statement.

KILMEADE: Wow. John Madden said Brady had to know. So did Troy Aikman say he had to know. And I will think...


KILMEADE: ... have done something. There's pressure on the NFL to come up with answers here because of the season they've had. This is the worst scenario for them to close the season!

HANNITY: All right, let me -- let me say. This is the best thing for ticket sales that you could ever have. This is huge!

KILMEADE: And viewership.

HANNITY: And viewership. Everyone wants to see it. They got to check the ball, not check the ball. What's the pressure on that ball? He threw a touchdown. All right, I've got the Patriots...

THEISMANN: I guarantee you there'll be a lot of shots of the football.

HANNITY: I've got the Patriots by 3. Joe Theismann.


HANNITY: All right, what do you think, Spencer?

TILLMAN: Well, Seattle. You never go with the defense -- you go with the strongest defense. The number of Super Bowls that we've had, around 48 or so, only four times has a lower-rated defensive team lost the game.

HANNITY: That's a great statistic.

TILLMAN: So the bottom line as a takeaway is -- you got to know it -- defense wins championships.

HANNITY: And I got to tell you, I got burned last year. I took Denver. What do you got?

KILMEADE: And you lost what, $5 million or $10 million?


KILMEADE: How much did you lose, Sean?

HANNITY: I lost $100.

KILMEADE: OK. Fine. I will say this, I'm waiting until Sunday to pick. I want to wait to see how healthy Richard Sherman (ph) is. He was walking around with one arm. And if he's not healthy in that secondary, they're a very human defense.

HANNITY: All right, we'll...

THEISMANN: Richard Sherman won't be a factor in this game, Brian.

KILMEADE: Why? They're not going to pass?

THEISMANN: He will not be a factor. He's going to be a spectator in this football game.

KILMEADE: They're just going to avoid him?

THEISMANN: He's going to be, like -- he's going to a right fielder at Yankee Stadium with a bunch of right-handed batters.

KILMEADE: Well, I mean, I thought so last time, and then (INAUDIBLE) with one leg (ph), the Packers are going after him (ph) with Aaron Rodgers.  So I think that he's going to be a factor because I think they're going to have to go to him because on the other side is Harley Weakness (ph).

HANNITY: All right, guys. You know what? This is almost as fun as election night. Thank you, guys. Appreciate it.

KILMEADE: Let's go (ph) to commercial!


HANNITY: All right, good to see everybody. Thank you, Spencer.  Thank you, Joe. Thank you, Brian.

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