BURLINGTON, Mass. -- Drew Bledsoe has followed from afar as his former team has been implicated in the Deflategate controversy, and he's been bothered by the way the Patriots -- and his former teammate Tom Brady, in particular -- have been characterized.
"The overriding thing for me is I hate to see the way that this thing is portrayed for the Patriots," he said. "It's like there's a witch hunt against these guys that they're bad guys, and they're cheating their way to the top and some of those things. It's simply not the case. That part really bothers me because I'm obviously very close with Mr. Kraft and his family, and Tommy and I have stayed close through the years, and I don't like to see that because that's not who they are."
Bledsoe and Brady were teammates for two seasons, including New England's Super Bowl run in 2001. They've remained friends long after their days of sharing a quarterback meeting room, and Bledsoe says he's sent Brady messages since the Deflategate story broke to voice his support.
"I haven't asked him directly about it," Bledsoe said. "I've just sent him a couple of messages, just telling I'm supporting him, but I'm certain it's something that is very -- if nothing else -- tiring for him to deal with. It's such an inconsequential thing in my mind, and for him to kind of be raked over the coals about it, it's really, it's really . . . I hate to see it and I hope it's not souring him while continuing to play because I want to keep watching him play."
On Wednesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell informed the NFLPA that he would not recuse himself as the arbitrator for Brady's appeal of his four-game suspension. It's unclear as to whether or not the length of the ban will be reduced, but as far as Bledsoe is concerned, it should be.
"I was really surprised when I saw the punishment, and I'll be interested to see what happens with the appeals process and so on," he said. "It's just kind of goes along with what I said earlier. I'm just not sure the attention, and therefore the punishment, fits the alleged infraction. I don't like it."
Bledsoe's final NFL season came in 2006, which was the same year in which every team was allowed to provide its own footballs to use on offense. Before Brady and Peyton Manning pushed for that rule change, the home teams always provided the game footballs.
While Bledsoe said he remembers picking out the footballs he'd use on Sundays, he doesn't know what kind of air pressure was in the footballs that he chose.
"We'd go sit down and grab the footballs," he said. "That one felt good, it went in the good bag. If another one didn't feel right then it went in the other bag. To this day, I have no idea what the pressure was in the football. I really don't. I just knew what felt normal and what didn't feel normal and that was it."
He added: "I just knew what felt good. I didn't know if it was over or under. I really don't have a clue. I just . . . If it felt right, I'd pick it up and throw it. The only thing I didn't like is I think there was a preseason where the referees showed up with the balls on game day and we never got to do anything with them to break them in, and those were awful. Right when they came out of the bag, they were really slick and that was not good so I'm glad they changed that."
Bledsoe was in town to host a dinner at the restaurant Tuscan Kitchen, where signed bottles of his Doubleback Family Wine were handed out to guests who purchased tickets. He was relaxed, sipping on a coffee before the event while he spoke to reporters. But when the topic of Deflategate arose, he was clearly irked by the situation that has sullied the reputation of one of his friends as well as organization that drafted him and inducted him into its Hall of Fame.
"I don't know the ins and outs of the whole thing," he said. "I haven't read the whole report, and I haven't talked to Tommy about it. I just think the story is kind of silly to be honest with you. I've said that from the beginning. I don't get it. It's being treated like this huge conspiracy, and ultimately we're talking about some footballs and a pound of pressure. It's not really something that I think should be treated the way it's been treated."