(Reuters) - Seattle All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner is not fussed by the deflated ball debate swirling around the New England Patriots and says it does not diminish the respect he has for the Seahawks’ Super Bowl opponents.
“I don’t care. They can be flat. They can be pumped up,” Wagner told reporters on Thursday about the footballs to be used in Glendale, Arizona for Super Bowl 49 on Feb. 1.
“Someone has to hand them off and someone has to catch them. I‘m the guy who has to tackle them, so put as much air as you want in them.”
The NFL is investigating whether footballs used by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the 45-7 NFC title game thumping of the Indianapolis Colts were softer than regulation levels to make them easier to grip, and how they were deflated.
Wagner said the ball pressure “didn’t stop (the Colts) from missing tackles and didn’t stop them from not making the plays that they were making”.
Wagner said his view of the Patriots was unchanged.
“We focus on us and they do what they do. They’re winners. They’ve done this for a long time,” he said about the Patriots, who won three Super Bowls in four years from 2002 and are going to their sixth NFL title game.
“I’ve watched them -- growing up -- winning. I have respect for them.”
Defensive end Michael Bennett echoed his team mate.
“My opinion (of the Patriots) is the same. Bill Belichick is one of the greatest coaches to ever step foot in a building. Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks to play football,” said Bennett.
”The Patriots are one of the greatest football teams to ever exist in this football league. My opinion of them hasn’t changed at all -- it’s still all about playing the game.
“We’re playing against a great team so we have to be ready to play against them.”
Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes