SALEM, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady knows how to buy time when he’s under pressure — on and off the field.
Especially when the star quarterback is in front of a home crowd.
One day after a report from an NFL-hired investigator concluded Brady probably knew that New England Patriots employees had a role in deflating footballs, he said Thursday night he needs more time to process the 243-page report.
“I don’t really have any reaction. It has only been 30 hours. I’ve not had much time to digest it,” Brady told a university crowd that broke into frequent applause. “When I do I will be sure to let you know how I feel about it. And everybody else.”
The 2015 Super Bowl MVP is waiting to find out if the NFL will discipline him with a fine, a suspension or both. New England is scheduled to play its opener against Pittsburgh in the kickoff game of the regular season on Sept. 10.
“There is a process going forward and I am involved in this process,” he said.
He wasn’t shy about saying that the scandal hasn’t detracted from the 28-24 Super Bowl win over Seattle two weeks after the 45-7 victory over Indianapolis in the AFC championship game that was the focus of the investigation.
“Absolutely not,” he said in his first public appearance since the report from Ted Wells, an independent investigator appointed by the NFL, was issued. “We earned everything we got and achieved as a team, and I am proud of that and so are our fans.”
Asked whether public backlash bothers 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 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 enter, including some wearing Brady jerseys. During the wait, the crowd chanted “Brady” and “MVP,” then gave him a standing ovation as he walked in.
When someone shouted, “I love you Tommy,” he responded “love you, too.”
Gray said the session would largely stick to subjects that were planned 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 for Brady.
The NFL requires a range of 12.5-13.5 pounds per square inch. Footballs with less pressure can be easier to grip and catch. Some quarterbacks prefer footballs that have less air, and Brady played a role in a 2006 rewriting of the rules that allowed visiting teams to supply the footballs it would use on offense.
The first four minutes of the hour-long session were devoted to Brady’s reaction to the report. The subject did not come up again.
Brady seemed at ease throughout the event, which included questions about Seattle coach Pete Carroll’s ill-fated call for a pass that was intercepted in the end zone by cornerback Malcom Butler in the final minute of the Super Bowl.
“It was more of a great defensive play than a bad offensive play,” Brady said.
He laughed when asked about a recent online video showing him jumping off a cliff into water in Costa Rica.
“It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing,” he said. “I’ll never do it again.”
And he reiterated that a “family commitment” kept him from the recent White House ceremony honoring the champion Patriots.
“Did the team go?” Brady said to laughter. “If we get that opportunity (next year) there’s no doubt I’ll be there.”
Earlier Thursday, his agent, Don Yee, said the NFL was determined to blame Brady for deflated footballs, while the investigation omitted key facts and buried others.
The team didn’t respond to requests from The Associated Press seeking comment about the report from Brady and Patriots coach Bill Belichick. The Patriots didn’t make anyone available on Thursday.
The report didn’t find any evidence that team owner Robert Kraft, Belichick or the coaching staff knew anything about deflating balls. But it found some of Brady’s claims implausible in explaining why balls were underinflated.
AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner in New York contributed to this report.
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