SALEM, Mass. — New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said Thursday night the scandal surrounding his use of deflated footballs during the NFL playoffs last season hasn’t detracted in any way from his Super Bowl title.
“Absolutely not,” Brady told a friendly crowd in his first public appearance since an NFL investigation concluded Brady likely knew Patriots employees were cheating.
“We earned everything we got and achieved as a team, and I am proud of that and so are our fans,” he said.
Brady declined to discuss his thoughts about the 243-page report that said that he was likely at least aware two team employees were breaking rules by deflating footballs for him.
“I don’t really have any reaction. It has only been 30 hours, I’ve not had much time to digest it,” Brady said. “When I do, I will be sure to let you know how I feel about it. And everybody else.”
Brady said he will address things more once things play out and he is more comfortable. Brady is still waiting to see whether the league will discipline him with a fine, suspension or both.
“There is a process going forward, and I am involved in this process,” he said.
Asked whether public backlash is bothering him, Brady said he accepts his role as a public figure and has people who support him and help him get through it.
“As a human you care about what people think. I think also as a public figure you learn not everyone is going to like you,” he said. “Good, bad or indifferent there are a lot of people who don’t like Tom Brady, and I am OK with that.”
The report by investigator Ted Wells found some of his claims were implausible in explaining why balls were underinflated during the playoffs last season.
The superstar quarterback spoke at a Q&A session moderated by sportscaster Jim Gray during a previously scheduled, sold-out event at Salem State University. He arrived by helicopter for the talk on leadership, avoiding a long line of fans outside and media waiting for him to enter. The event was delayed more than 30 minutes to allow fans to file in, including some wearing Brady jerseys. During the wait, the crowd chanted “MVP,” then gave him a standing ovation as he walked in.
Gray said the session would largely stick to subjects they planned previously when they arranged the talk four months ago. But he acknowledged the difficulty in avoiding one of the hottest topics in sports.
“There’s an elephant in the room,” Gray said.
“Where?” Brady responded.
Gray shot back: “You might be the only one in the room who does not see it.”
Gray did not ask Brady directly whether he cheated or about specific issues raised in the report, including text messages and phone conversations that indicated the employees were trading autographed footballs and sneakers for doctoring the balls.
Hunter, rest of draft class signs: The Vikings signed their entire 10-player draft class, just before the beginning of their rookie minicamp.
The Vikings will have a fifth-year option on the contract for first-round pick Trae Waynes, the cornerback from Michigan State. The rest will get four-year deals: linebacker Eric Kendricks, ex-LSU standout defensive end Danielle Hunter, offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings, tight end MyCole Pruitt, wide receiver Stefon Diggs, offensive lineman Tyrus Thompson, defensive lineman B.J. Dubose, offensive lineman Austin Shepherd and linebacker Edmond Robinson.
Around the league
The Raiders signed rookie receiver Amari Cooper. The Raiders drafted him fourth overall out of Alabama last week to give quarterback Derek Carr the big-play receiving option he lacked last season. ... The Jets signed linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin, quarterback Bryce Petty and defensive tackle Deon Simon (Northwestern State), all drafted last weekend. ... Titans linebacker Kamerion Wimbley wants to spend more time with his family and decided to retire after nine seasons.