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Seven years after a near perfect season embroiled in controversy, ending in a heartbreaking loss  to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII, the New England Patriots once again find themselves balls deep in a legacy tainting conundrum.

The Patriots stand accused of using under inflated balls during the first half of the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. As information has trickled out of league and team sources, the situation has become less clear by the minute.

On the surface the team is handling the scandal and scrutiny calmly, deflecting questions and hoping to focus on the upcoming game with Seattle.

Remember folks, still waters run deep.

Upon entering the Patriots locker room, following Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick's Wednesday morning press conference last week, the tension was palpable as swarms of national media members clamored to shove microphones at any Patriot that would give them the time of day.

For 45 minutes I could feel the team retract into it's shell, looking to shield themselves from the bright lights and prying questions seeking to diminish a year of hard work. Unfamiliar faces, leering at an already galvanized team poked and prodded for the magical sound bite that would break the story wide open and expose them as cheaters once and for all.

To no ones surprise, those sound bites didn't come and the questions remained unanswered.

As I waited at the edge of a crowd surrounding LeGarrette Blount's locker with several other local
media members, Rob Gronkowski sauntered toward his own locker to prepare for practice.

Gronk glanced at the group of reporters eying him in eager anticipation, "I'll talk tomorrow guys," he said pulling on his cleats.

AP Photo
Knowing that I wasn't going to get anything of substance from him, I turned and halfheartedly asked him if this pissed off the team.

"Does what piss us off?" Gronk responded. Was he playing dumb or had he truly blocked out the noise surrounding Deflate Gate?

Obviously wanting to add some clarification and get an answer I asked him if this situation, being labeled as a cheater,  and all the media scrutiny over something as simple as the PSI of a football pissed them off.

I didn't receive and answer, at least one that I can put into words.

Gronk simply looked up at me from the chair in front of his locker and  laughed. It wasn't a funny, nice joke laugh. It wasn't a nervous , I don't have an answer laugh. It was a "they screwed with the wrong team and we're already sick of talking about this" laugh that was accompanied by an icy glare directed at the mass of unfamiliar faces behind me.

Several grueling days later, Belichick took to the podium in what was, by far, his best press conference of his career.

With the media breathing down the teams neck, Belichick remained defiant in telling the world that the Patriots were not the cheaters they were being labeled. He highlighted the hard work and preparation the team had gone through week after week and became borderline emotional as he talked about what the group had been through.

As the press conference drew on Belichick's tenor changed from defiant, to down right pissed off as the media tried to strip away the accomplishments his team had worked so hard to achieve.

Steven Senne/AP
Suddenly, a bomb was dropped into the mix in the form of a Spy-Gate question.

If you were watching or listening, you heard Belichick for the first time since the incident admit that the team did in fact video tape opposing teams signals ... "in front of 80,000 people" ... "80,000 people."

It was a ground breaking look into the mind Belichick. He knew that he had broken a rule, but he also knew that it was a rule that was being widely broken at the time.

Time and time again the Patriots have been accused of breaking and bending the rules. Most of the time, it has been through the cynical eyes of those jealous that they couldn't achieve the level of success that this organization has risen to.

The bottom line is that there isn't a team that isn't doing something to push the limit of the rules. If the NFL wanted to do its job correctly, they wouldn't hang the Patriots out to dry, they would do an in depth investigation into the practices of every team.

At the end of the day, these accusations of cheating will do nothing but serve as a motivating factor to further galvanize an already resilient team.

Opposing fans and players already views their first three Super Bowls as tainted. I don't think a fourth is really going to bother Belichick and the boys.


Follow Andrew on Twitter @_AndrewSheehan

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Andrew Sheehan 2/01/2015 02:21:00 PM Edit
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