Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

Stall, lie, cheat -- it's Patriots' way, and perfectly timed (updated)

(Updated with Tom Brady comments.)

Bill Belichick says he doesn't know anything about deflated footballs.

"I have no explanation for what happened,” he said.

Of course not. Because I'm sure there are a number of things that go on within the New England Patriots' organization that Belichick doesn't know about.

(Lightning strikes me.)

Here's another beauty: "When I came in Monday morning, I was shocked to learn of the news reports about the footballs. I had no knowledge whatsoever of this situation until Monday morning."

I'm hearing the voice of "Louis" from Casablanca in my head.

New England plays a Super Bowl next week. That's all Belichick cares about. That's all the NFL cares about. The longest shot on the board isn't Belichick admitting culpability in "DeflateGate," it's NFL commissioner Roger Goodell saying or doing anything that's going to upset the league's centerpiece event.

If anything happens to the Patriots -- and yes, I do believe they will be fined and/or lose draft picks as a result of the discovery that 11 of their offense's 12 footballs in last week's AFC title win over Indianapolis were found to be deflated -- it will be long after the Super Bowl.

Belichick is not going to be suspended, as much as so many are pushing for that. The only conversation  he'll be having with Goodell next Sunday will possibly take place on a stage after the Super Bowl in Arizona when the commissioner is handing him the Lombardi Trophy.

Is Goodell upset? Of course. The only thing he hates more than being made to look like a liar and a goof in the Ray Rice, domestic violence, I-never-saw-that-elevator-video saga is being fooled or lied to twice.

Roger Goodell will be channeling these three guys Super Bowl week. (via Chez Gigi)

One reason the NFL came down so hard on former Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was Vick lied to Goodell's face when asked directly about allegations that he was funding and participating in a dog fighting enterprise. (Vick also learned lying to the Feds would prove to be a bigger mistake than the crime itself.) Goodell already came down on the Patriots for "Spygate" and the organization constantly walks the line -- or crosses the line -- in other areas, including compliance with injury report guidelines. In short, the Patriots can be a pain for the NFL to deal with.

Once more, with feeling: New England defeated Indianapolis 45-7, so deflated footballs were not going to be factor in the outcome. But you can't have teams, coaches or players -- because Tom Brady is as at least complicit as Belichick in this case, if not more -- doctoring equipment. It's cheating. Period.

Belichick knows the best course of action here is to stall. Or lie. Or both. Nothing is going to happen until well after his team plays for a championship. That's all that matters in his bubble. It's not as if the NFL would vacate a Super Bowl win based on deflated footballs in the AFC championship game.

Tom Brady read from the same, "I know nothing," script as his head coach. (AP photo)

Brady is following the same script as his head coach. He denied bleeding air out of the footballs or asking anybody to do so, denied even realizing he was throwing a deflated football, even though he has picked up a football exactly ... how many times?

So, in summary, two of the most dedicated, obsessed and detail-oriented individuals in the history of professional football never noticed that footballs had been deflated. Completely believable.

Selections from his news conference:

• "Everyone’s trying to figure out what happened. I was as surprised as anybody when I heard Monday morning (on his radio show) what was happening. ... I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t know what happened."

• "I didn't alter the ball in any way. ... I would never do anything outside the rules of play. I would never have somebody do something that I thought was outside the rules."

• (Three days after laughing about the topic on the radio.) "This is a very serious topic. The integrity of the sport is very important. ... I feel like I have always played within the rules. I would never break the rules."

• "We're going to be fine. This isn’t Isis. No one is dying."

Good to know.

Actually, the most illuminating thing from Brady's media session was the NFL hasn't spoken to him yet. Yes, it appears the league's crack investigative team is right on top of this.

Goodell hates how this week is unfolding and he's going to hate it even more next week when the subject is debated daily and he's asked about it in his annual state-of-the-NFL address. But he's not going to take action against New England now because that would inflame the situation even more during Super Bowl week.

And Belichick and Brady know that.

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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.