The swirling controversy surrounding an alleged lack of air pressure in the Patriots’ footballs wasn’t the only storm New England players and coaches avoided Monday.
Before declining to answer most questions about what’s been termed Deflategate at a team hotel press conference in Arizona, the Patriots departed Massachusetts an hour earlier than planned, just ahead of a winter blast bearing down on the Boston area.
Coach Bill Belichick began his remarks with a thought on the blizzard and his team’s timing.
“I guess we’re a step ahead of the storm,” he said, in what might also be taken as a reference to New England owner Robert Kraft’s stern statement about the controversy.
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Belichick went on to wish the fans in New England dealing with the blizzard all the best. “We know they’ll show the toughness and teamwork that they always do,” he said.
The Associated Press reported late Monday that the Philadelphia-to-Boston area was expecting potential hurricane-force winds and 1 to 3 feet of snow.
Even at that, Patriots fans turned out at Boston City Hall for a sendoff rally before the team headed to the airport.
“It was awesome,” safety Devin McCourty said. “To have that many people — who should be just worried about stocking up on whatever they need in their house because of the snowstorm — coming outside, yelling and screaming and cheering us on, it makes you realize what kind of an honor this is. … We know we’ve got their support back home. No matter how much snow there is on the ground, everyone will be there supporting us and watching.”
When asked if New England was at a disadvantage in the Super Bowl because the weather could make it harder for Patriots fans to get to Arizona, quarterback Tom Brady said he wasn’t concerned.
“They travel pretty well,” Brady said. “Last year when they (Seattle) went to New York they had a pretty good home crowd. I’m sure they’ll be in full force. But I think we got a great crowd, too.”
More than 6,500 flights in and out of the Northeast were canceled, according to the AP.
Tuesday brings the annual and infamous Super Bowl Media Day.
The Patriots are first up in the morning. And the Super Bowl veterans among them balanced knowing what to expect along with the full expectation of surprises.
“Some guys might find it really entertaining,” said defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, who is preparing for his fourth Super Bowl. “But it’s all in fun. You get some crazy questions, but at the same time you try to have fun with it and try to enjoy the moment. But at the same time, you have to be on your toes because you never know what you might be asked.”
Patriots receiver Matthew Slater acknowledged that the Seahawks could benefit from their familiarity with University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the NFC West’s Arizona Cardinals. However, he noted that the actual playing surface is being replaced this week, and therefore it will be new to both teams. … No bulletin board material on this day: Wilfork and McCourty agreed that Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch is the best back they’ll have faced this season, and Slater added that the Seahawks have the best defense they’ve seen. Meanwhile, Brady called Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson “a phenomenal leader for his team,” and Belichick was glowing in his praise of the Seahawks and coach Pete Carroll, whom he called “one of the great coaches in my time.”