Patriots avoid blizzard but no escaping 'Deflategate' storm

Mon Jan 26, 2015 10:36pm EST
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By Steve Keating

PHOENIX (Reuters) - The New England Patriots escaped a winter blizzard to make their way to the Super Bowl city of Phoenix on Monday but there was no avoiding another storm as the mystery of the deflated footballs continued to swirl.

As snow blanketed the U.S. Northeast the Patriots stepped off their flight into the teeth of a full blown controversy as hundreds of media welcomed them with questions about an NFL investigation into their use of under-inflated footballs during a victory over Indianapolis that clinched a Super Bowl berth.

For over a week the Patriots have been hammered by questions about how 11 of 12 footballs used in the AFC Championship game did not meet NFL standards.

On Monday the team blasted back, with team owner Robert Kraft sent out to take on the media.

Defiant and confrontational, a grim-faced Kraft opened the Patriots first Super Bowl news conference with a scathing rebuke of the media and the league for questioning his team's integrity and that of coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.

Both Brady, a three-time Super Bowl winner, and Belichick have denied any knowledge or involvement in what has become known in the American media as 'Deflategate'.

"I want to make it clear that I believe unconditionally that the New England Patriots have done nothing inappropriate in this process or in violation of NFL rules," Kraft told a packed conference hall.

"Tom, Bill and I have been together for 15 years, they are my guys, they are part of my family ... and I have never known them to lie to me.   Continued...

January 26, 2015; Chandler, AZ, USA; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft addresses the media during a press conference after their arrival in preparation for Super Bowl XLIX at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Hotel. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports