'Deflate-gate': Belichick says Patriots 'followed the rules'

"At no time was there any intent whatsoever to try to compromise the integrity of the game or to gain an advantage," Belichick said of the accusations that the Patriots used under-inflated balls in last Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots beat the Colts 45-7.

"Quite the opposite: We feel like we followed the rules of the game to the letter," Belichick said. "We try to do everything right. We err on the side of caution. It's been that way now for many years. Anything that's close, we stay as far away from the line as we can."

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ESPN reported Tuesday night that the New England Patriots had "11 of their 12 allotted game footballs under-inflated by 2 pounds of air (PSI) as required by NFL regulations" in the AFC Championship Game. The NFL released a statement Friday regarding the investigation.

Belichick first addressed the issue Thursday, saying he was shocked to learn about the under-inflated footballs and had no explanation for what happened. Quarterback Tom Brady also denied any wrongdoing. 

The Patriots said they will continue to cooperate in the investigation.

The team could face fines of up to $25,000 or loss of draft picks if the balls were found to be deflated. 

A reporter from Indianapolis was first to report the news of a story that was quickly dubbed "deflate-gate." In a series of tweetsBob Kravitz of WTHR.com said, "A league source tells me the NFL is investigating the possibility the Patriots deflated footballs Sunday night. More to come."

During his Monday morning radio appearance with Dennis & Callahan on WEEI, quarterback Tom Brady called the claim ridiculous.

“I think I've heard it all at this point,” Brady said, adding it was the last of his worries.

"I don't even respond to stuff like this,” Brady said.

Deflating a football makes it easier to throw and catch, especially in the rain, which was falling in buckets for portions of the second half.

According to the NFL rulebook, the home team is required to send 12 official game balls to referees more than two hours prior to kick off. The balls are tested for pressure. The rulebook also says the balls then remain under a referee's supervision until they are delivered to a ball attendant just before kickoff.

Here's the actual rule from the NFL rulebook: The home club shall have 36 balls for outdoor games and 24 for indoor games available for testing with a pressure gauge by the referee two hours prior to the starting time of the game to meet with League requirements. Twelve (12) new footballs, sealed in a special box and shipped by the manufacturer, will be opened in the officials' locker room two hours prior to the starting time of the game. These balls are to be specially marked with the letter "k" and used exclusively for the kicking game.

The Patriots will play Seattle for the NFL title on Feb. 1.

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