The Seattle Seahawks arrived in Arizona seeming pretty content to leave the Deflategate controversy all to the New England Patriots.
And then there was Richard Sherman.
The controversial cornerback had something to say, and he said it to the largest cluster of media gathered at the Seahawks’ first public appearance in Arizona leading to Super Bowl 49 on Sunday against the Patriots.
Asked about the perception that New England gets pretty close to the line on league rules, Sherman said: “I think perception is reality. It is what it is. Their résumé speaks for itself. … Will they be punished? Probably not. Not as long as (owner) Robert Kraft and (NFL commissioner) Roger Goodell are still taking pictures at their respective homes. (Goodell) was just at Kraft’s house last week before the AFC Championship. Talk about conflict of interest. As long as that happens, it won’t affect them at all.”
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Other Seahawks were more circumspect when asked about the controversy that the Patriots might have deflated their footballs used in New England’s 45-7 win over Indianapolis in the AFC Championship Game win.
“We’re focusing on one thing, and that’s winning the Super Bowl,” receiver Jermaine Kearse said.
Reporters tried a less direct route, asking Kearse if he was happy that the Patriots’ controversy might lessen the spotlights on the Seahawks. But while the question was a bit different, Kearse’s answer was about the same.
Meanwhile, defensive end Michael Bennett smelled conspiracy.
“I think it’s all propaganda, just to get a chance to build the game up,” he said. “It’s all inflating the game right now. It’s like just to make it even more worth it than what it’s really about. It’s really just about us two great teams playing.”
Finally, coach Pete Carroll saw a potential benefit to the Pats.
“I think it’s common when you feel like you’re under attack that it draws you closer,” he said. “I think that’s pretty common. I would expect those guys, they’ve been around a long time, and I would think that they would rally together.”
Super Bowl 49 will be played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. That’s the home of the NFC West’s Arizona Cardinals, and therefore an annual regular-season stop for Seattle.
The Seahawks didn’t frame that familiarity as any huge advantage, but they hardly saw how it could hurt.
“It does feel familiar to us and our players have commented about that as well — that we feel comfortable coming here,” Carroll said. “We know what it feels like, we know what the sound is like. I don’t know what the Super Bowl crowd will be like, but the fans down here have supported the Cardinals very well.”
Arizona fans probably liked that response better than Bennett’s.
“You play down here every year, but it’s a different team you’re playing,” he said. “We’re playing the Cardinals, which they don’t have a quarterback. We’re playing New England, which has a great quarterback.”
The stadium has a retractable roof, which was closed during the Seahawks’ previous visit: a 35-6 win over the Cardinals on Dec. 28.
The NFL has said the roof will be open for the Super Bowl unless unexpected bad weather arrives.
“It’s going to be probably 70 degrees and nice outside here in Arizona,” quarterback Russell Wilson said. “It probably doesn’t change much.”
Safety Earl Thomas said his injured shoulder is feeling “pretty good.” He left no doubt that he intends to play Sunday. … Several Seahawks expressed their appreciation for their thousands of fans who turned out to give them a memorable sendoff Sunday. “It was like instead of having the game in the stadium it was in the street today,” Bennett said. There were lots of jersey-wearing, sign-holding, flag-waving Seahawks fans on hand to greet them in Arizona, as well. … The Seahawks will practice Monday at Arizona State University in Tempe. Meanwhile, the Patriots are scheduled to arrive late Monday afternoon with an hour-long media session to follow.