Nothing here, no "see, hear or speak" that explains DeflateGate, the New England Patriots insist as they arrive in Phoenix for Super Bowl 49. Keep it moving, they implore, and let's all get ready for the season's prime game.
It will not work. The clouds that covered the Patriots in Massachusetts followed them to Arizona.
Because 11 of 12 Patriots' game balls for the AFC Championship were found deflated and none of the Indianapolis Colts' 12 were, the Patriots cannot deflate the scrutiny. They cannot deflate the mocking of this scandal that is being called everything, including "Ballghazi" and New England being scorched as the "Deflatriots."
This spectacle intensifies globally in Phoenix.
Expect the Patriots to hide behind "the league is investigating this matter" during Super Bowl week. The NFL has already set the table for that. It went from league executive Troy Vincent saying last Tuesday that the investigation will be finished in "two or three days" to a full-blown, lawyered-up probe that will last weeks beyond the Super Bowl. It made certain that Patriots coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady would participate in Super Bowl 49. It destroyed the slimmest chance of suspensions or penalties for either before this title game.
The NFL prefers enduring slings and arrows shot this week over the definitive humiliation of any trace of penalties before Super Bowl kickoff.
It's a product thing. It's an image thing. It's a money thing.
It's a woeful circumstance for the Patriots and the league on the heels of a bullying fiasco that was mishandled in Miami, a domestic violence blowup that was botched in Baltimore and officiating ineptitude that continually strikes. Oh, and former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez's murder trial is set to begin smack in the middle of this Super Bowl week.
In the previous 48 Super Bowls, there has never been a team that walked through the front door like these Patriots, with so many people ready to shove them instantly out of the back door.
A year ago, immediately after the NFC Championship, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman shouted into a microphone and looked sternly into a TV camera and told the world in his uniquely provoking way just what he thought about people who criticized and doubted him and his team. It induced a slew of Seahawks haters nationally. They instantly became a team many people refused to appreciate or support. The Patriots have turned that feeling upside down -- in this Super Bowl, they have made the Seahawks, for many, easily digestible and preferred. The cloud of cheating crosses most fans' line beyond any perceived personality chasm.
And this from Belichick: "Anything that's close, we stay as far away from the line as we can."
One of his 31 NFL head coaching peers told me, "That is laughable. He makes the unilateral time to spend on this kind of stuff. They have the underground to do it. They have people there that spend time strictly on this kind of stuff. They push everything to the limit. It's just what they do. A lot of people in this league would be afraid of the repercussions. Somebody's got to stand up and say this is not right."
And this from one of Patriots owner Robert Kraft's 31 peers: "Everybody has understood for a long time that the Patriots do what they do. This could be real, I have no idea and I don't spend any energy on it. But I do know that Spygate was real. I know they were clearly guilty of that. And the league office swept it under the rug and burned the tapes. It left a black eye on the NFL. Hopefully this won't."
If an NFL head coach and owner feel this way, imagine what is going on amongst the Patriots players. They have been instructed and coached in "The Patriot Way." They drink the juice but with a wink.
"It's a black eye, no way you cut it," one of the Patriots players told me before departing for Super Bowl 49.
It may be a winnable Super Bowl game for the Patriots. It is an unwinnable position. They cannot avoid an asterisk immediately being attached to a Super Bowl 49 victory.
The NFL's delayed investigation assures that.
Think the NFL brass is rooting for a Seahawks rout?
That's the game behind the game -- wink, wink.