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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Dan Marino liked to rough footballs up during his Hall of Fame career in order to gain a better grip but does not believe Tom Brady had anything to do with the New England Patriots' deflated balls flap.
The NFL is investigating whether the Patriots used deflated balls to gain a better grip in a rout of the Indianapolis Colts that clinched a Super Bowl berth. ESPN has reported that 11 of the Patriots' 12 game balls were under-inflated.
"I've known Tom a long time and he's a class act, a great quarterback, and I don't think he'd do anything really out of the ordinary," Marino told Reuters on Wednesday. "He has been an incredible quarterback for a long time."
The Patriots have broken NFL rules before.
In 2007, the league fined head coach Bill Belichick the NFL maximum $500,000 and the Patriots $250,000 along with forfeiture of a draft pick for videotaping an opponent's defensive signals.
Brady, who could join Hall of Famers Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana as the only quarterbacks with four Super Bowl titles with a win over the defending champion Seattle Seahawks in Arizona on Feb. 1, dismissed the ball claims as "ridiculous."
Marino said he did not believe another rules infraction by the Patriots would affect the legacy of the Patriots, who are going to a sixth Super Bowl looking for their fourth title over the 15-year partnership of coach Belichick and Brady.
"You think about the run that coach Belichick and Brady have had together, it's as good as any that's been in the league. I don't think it would tarnish anything," said Marino, who was promoting the Nutrisystem diet product.
Marino said quarterbacks are allowed to condition balls before pre-game inspection by referees.
"I liked to rough them up a little bit because it's easier to grip," Marino said about his Miami Dolphins days.
"Every quarterback gets the opportunity to pick the balls they want to use before the game, and (Colts quarterback) Andrew Luck did too. Then it's really about the officials making sure the balls are ready for game play.
"I'm sure they did that, and went through all the specifications," he said, though added "it can give you a little advantage if it's deflated in tough weather conditions."
Editing by Frank Pingue