PHOENIX — Leave it to Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman to predict the NFL will pick up the flag rather than penalize the Patriots for possibly underinflating their footballs in the AFC Championship Game.
Minutes after arriving at the Seahawks' team hotel Sunday for Super Bowl XLIX, the outspoken Sherman shared his thoughts about Deflategate, saying the cozy relationship between Patriots owner Robert Kraft and commissioner Roger Goodell will lessen the punishment.
"Will they be punished? Probably not," Sherman said. "Not as long as Roger Goodell and Robert Kraft are still taking pictures at their respective homes. I think it was just at Kraft's house last week before the AFC Championship, you know. Talk about conflict of interest."
Sherman was referring to a photo that was posted on the Patriots' Twitter account before the AFC title game Jan. 18, showing Goodell at Kraft's home with the Patriots owner and members of his family.
Sherman's comments came a day after Patriots coach Bill Belichick said the team ran extensive tests on how the balls were prepared for the game and that they followed "every rule to the letter." The NFL has said its investigation would probably not end until after Sunday's Super Bowl.
"As long as that happens, it won't affect (the Patriots) at all," Sherman said. "Nothing will, it looks like."
Sherman is no stranger to the Super Bowl slimelight. A year ago he arrived at the game in New Jersey on the defensive about his postgame outburst following Seattle's NFC Championship Game win over the 49ers.
"Guess it is ironic that I was the villain last year seeing as I didn't break any rules or do anything despicable," Sherman said.
Though Sherman was skeptical of the league's handling of Deflategate, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, Belichick's predecessor as New England's coach, said he did not hold Belichick responsible for knowing how the balls are weighed and conditioned before the game.
"I never checked the whole process of how the balls are handled until (last) week," Carroll said. "I can empathize with Coach Belichick. … I know my awareness is up, and I'm sure theirs is and everybody in the league is. It will never be the same because of what just happened."
With his team making its second straight trip to the Super Bowl, Carroll said he told his players to remain humble.
But humility isn't in Sherman's extensive and colorful vocabulary. When asked if he's the NFL's best cornerback and to compare himself to the Patriots' Darrelle Revis, he said, "I don't answer preschool questions. Improve your line of questioning, then we'll talk."
Sherman didn't call out any Patriots players but referenced their history of taping opponents' defensive signals. New England forfeited a first-round draft pick and was fined for that in 2007 and hasn't won a Super Bowl since Spygate.
"I think the perception is the reality. It is what it is," Sherman said. "Their resume speaks for itself. You talk about getting close to the line. … Their past is what their past is. Their present is what their present is."