Tom Brady, as New England Patriots fans will confirm, always is looking for bulletin board material.
Sometimes it’s self-manufactured to provide a mental edge and sometimes it’s real shade thrown his way. In most circumstances it comes the week leading up to a big game, but that doesn’t mean there’s a statute of limitations if something was said long ago.
That may not be what Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine wants to hear ahead of Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Pettine, as you may recall, expressed his beliefs during one of the most trying times of Brady’s two-decade career in New England.
It came when Pettine, then the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, was asked about his reaction to the Deflategate saga. Without bringing up all the well-known details, Brady, obviously, was at the epicenter of the investigation.
“I didn’t have much of a reaction,” Pettine told reporters in May 2015, per CBS Cleveland. “Nothing is surprising. He’s one of the best ever and it would be a shame to tarnish that. I guess we’ll see how it plays out.
“… I’ve always had a lot respect for him, but also I lose a lot of respect for people who cheat.”
Pettine also was asked if the under-inflated footballs Brady was alleged to manipulate constituted as “cheating.”
“I just know it’s more probable than not that it happened,” he said at the time. “There’s no smoking gun or any of that. To me, if you found a way to manipulate the footballs to get them below what they should be, then that’s skirting the rules. Again, it falls into knowledge of it, general knowledge versus being responsible for it. There’s a lot of gray there. I do not envy the league office, trying to get a punishment sorted out.”
Brady, of course, was suspended the first four games of the 2016 season as punishment. Pettine was fired after Cleveland’s 2015 season, meaning he wasn’t on the opposing sideline when Brady led the Patriots to a 33-13 Week 5 victory over the Browns in his first game back.
Pettine, however, has gone up against Brady twice since those previous comments. The first came when Brady still was a member of the Patriots in 2018, and New England hung 31 points on Pettine’s defensive unit. The most recent was a Week 6 clash this season, which the Buccaneers won 38-10.
Brady will lead the Buccaneers into Lambeau Field on Sunday to face Aaron Rodgers’ offense and Pettine’s defense with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. Kick off is set for 3:05 p.m. ET.