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Pats Coach: We Did Nothing Wrong; ISIS Claims One Killed, Demands Prisoner Release; NORAD Scrambles to Escort Two Passenger Jets; A Generation of Kings Growing Older; How Can a Team Cheat with Deflated Balls; The Coach, Quarterback in Deflategate Scandal; Is Deflating Balls as Bad as Steroids; Expert Panel's Verdict on Deflategate

Aired January 24, 2015 - 17:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everyone. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Poppy Harlow joining you live in New York. And we are following new developments this hour on that scandal that threatens to overshadow the Super Bowl. A short time ago New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick defiantly defended his team and called what's become known as deflate gate a huge waste of time. He slammed allegations suggesting that someone in the Pats camp possibly deflated footballs, bending the rules to help the Pats win the AFC championship game. Listen.


BILL BELICHICK, HEAD COACH, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: This team was the best team in the AFC in the regular season. We won two games in the playoffs against two good football teams. Best team in the post- season. And that's what this team is. And I know that because I've been with them every day. And I'm proud of this team. So I just want to share with you what I've learned over the past week. I'm embarrassed to talk about the amount of time that I've put into this relative to the other important challenge in front of us. I'm not a scientist. I'm not an expert in footballs. I'm not an expert in football measurements. I'm just telling you what I know.

Let me bring in Sara Ganim. Sarah, you were there at the press conference. What was your read? And what was the reaction in the room after Bill Belichick stopped speaking?

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, you know, he went through this elaborate -- what sounded like a science experiment. Frankly, he took footballs and inflated them to the psi, the pound per square inch, that quarterback Tom Brady has said that he likes his footballs to be inflated to. That's 12.5 pound per square inch. And then they took them outside and measured them again after a time. And found that the pounds per square inch actually dropped 1.5 pounds when they were left outside for a long period of time.

And that was Belichick's explanation for what might have happened at the championship game when it was found that the balls were deflated to a level that was below the regulation, below what's allowed by the NFL during a game. Now, after going through this very elaborate explanation, essentially explaining these science experiments that they went through in the last couple of days, you heard him start to get pretty agitated, saying that this is something that was taking up a lot of his time in the last few days when he feels that he should have been preparing for the Super Bowl.

That he feels that this team always plays by the letter of the law, you know, goes by the rules, NFL rules. Does not break the rules. And he was called out on that. When you ask about the mood of the room, one of the reporters went after him a couple of times, saying, look, this is actually a team that's had a lot of controversy over the last few years, specifically the reporter called him out on the videotaping scandal from a few years back where he was caught videotaping another coach's hand signals from the sidelines. Belichick got pretty defensive about that and stuck to his belief that this was not only was this not cheating, that this was not the fault of anyone on his team, but that his team always abides by the rules. He basically, Poppy, chalked this up to atmospheric pressure.

Like when you get into your car after a cold night and your tire pressure is a little lower until you start driving again. He said that's in his opinion might be what happened. That these balls deflate without anyone touching them, without anyone messing with them. The pressure inside these footballs can vary based on the weather. He also emphasized that it's not team equipment managers or anyone on the team who inflates the footballs, that it's actually officials who do that work in a locker room. I'm sorry, not in the locker room. It's not done by the team. Its officials who do that. And he said that they can suggest what psi they'd like their footballs to be at before the game, but then they're at the mercy of the officials to inflate their footballs and take them out onto the field -- Poppy.

HARLOW: All right. Sara Ganim reporting for us live there from where the press conference happened just a little hour ago. At the half hour, we're going to delve much more into this with our CNN sports anchor Rachel Nichols.

Now, to the latest on the aviation's security scare in Atlanta, we are learning two NORAD fighter jets have returned to their home base after escorting two passenger airline flights to Atlanta's Hartsfield- Jackson Airport.

Joining me on the phone with the developments our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh. What do we know, Rene?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, at this point we know, Poppy, that these two passenger jets were able to land safely. They were destined for Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport. So we know that they made it safely to the destination. We know also that authorities met the plane on the ground in a remote area because the process, the way it works, is they now have to sweep this aircraft. They also have to screen all of the individuals and their luggage that was on board. Both of these passenger jets.

Of course, you have the bomb-sniffing dogs out there as well to make sure that there is no bomb on board. Of course, we know that this threat came via social media, twitter, a threat of a bomb being on board these two passenger jets. In this day and age, a law enforcement, airlines, all authorities, they do not want to take any risk. So we saw that those two military jets, they were scrambled. We know that they essentially escorted both of this aircraft until they landed safely at Atlanta's main airport there.

And we know that the screening process is under way. Of course, scary for those passengers. But, you know, this happens way too often. And just last weekend, you had a situation in Raleigh, North Carolina. Same situation. A plane on the tarmac there landed from Atlanta to Raleigh. All of the passengers had to be evacuated because of a bomb threat on social media. Then in New York City at JFK just on Monday, you had a telephone threat, bomb threat, and two passenger jets were also searched as a result of this. So what you see is a very hefty response. Because with the worldwide threats that we've been talking so much about, no one wants to take the risk. So that process is under way at this point -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Rene Marsh reporting for us. Thank you Rene, we appreciate it. And also just to inform everyone all the passengers are safe. Also those planes were bound for Atlanta and they did land safely in Atlanta.

Meantime, President Obama today condemning the apparent execution of one of two Japanese hostages held by ISIS. The President expressed condolences to the people of Japan in a statement from the White House. Also earlier today, a known ISIS supporter posted a picture and also audio that purports to show that one of the two hostages, Haruna Yukawa was beheaded after a deadline for ransom passed. This is an image released earlier this week of him. And while the death has not been confirmed, the message also appears to relay a new demand by ISIS for the remaining hostage's freedom, they want a prisoner exchange. The voice on the audio calls for the release of Sajida al- Rishawi, this is a woman arrested in Jordan back in 2005. So, who is she? Our Jomana Karadsheh has more.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Iraqi national Sajida al-Rishawi was part of a four-member suicide bomber team that was dispatched by al Qaeda in Iraq in 2005 to attack Jordan. Now, in November of that year, three hotels here in the Jordanian capital were hit by suicide bombings. Sajida al Rishawi was captured by Jordan authorities and in confession aired on Jordanian's television. She said that she was at one of the hotels with her husband who attacked and blew up a wedding party at that hotel. But that her suicide vest failed to detonate. In 2006, al Rishawi was sentenced to death. But she has been on death row since.

Now, Jordan has had a de facto moratorium on the death penalty since that year and has only resumed executions in December of last year, just last month. Jordan for the past week has been working closely with the Japanese government to try and secure the release of the hostages. A crisis operation center has been set up at the Japanese Embassy here in Amman. It is headed by the deputy foreign minister of japan. Now both Jordanians and Japanese officials here in the capital Amman have been very tight-lipped about the situation. Jordanian government for its part would not comment on this demand on Saturday, saying they're working to verify the authenticity of this video. Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Amman.

HARLOW: Jomana, thank you very much for that.

Also, Saudi Arabia ruled by one royal family, but with the death of its king this week his successor and those next in line are not getting any younger. We'll take a look at what this could mean for the country's future.

Also the debate over deflate gate takes a new twist as the pressure builds on the NFL to find the answers. We will tackle the issue with our experts in a special report at 5:30 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.


HARLOW: President Obama cutting his trip to India short this week in order to go to Saudi Arabia. America's ally is facing new uncertainty after the death of King Abdullah. His successor, King Salman is 79 years old. And his heir apparent the crown prince is 69 years old. Their generation is getting older and can't supply kings forever. So, what comes next in Saudi Arabia? That is a very big question. Our Nic Robertson has more.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The line of succession in Saudi Arabia passes from brother to brother. All the sons of the original King Saud. So what has been happening over the years is that leadership has become essentially older and older and older. King Salman 79. He is in a very powerful position. The monarchy in Saudi Arabia, not like the monarchy in Britain that doesn't will power in Saudi Arabia, the king has all the power. He has holds a mashles (ph), a court where people will come and petition him for things that they need. All decisions about affairs of state will ultimately cross his desk. So it is important to have somebody in that position who is at least able bodied, able minded, and capable of dealing with the heavy issues of the affairs of state. And right now, King Salman faces big problems to his north, to his south.

Yemen, Saudi Arabia pumps billions of dollars into Yemen. Increasingly unstable. The Houthis pushing out the government that Saudi Arabia supported there. To the north they see Iraq now as really being very much in the mold of Iran. Iran for Saudi Arabia essentially an enemy. Then they see Iran as backing the Houthis to the south in Yemen. So this is going to absorb a lot of the time and effort and energy of King Salman.

Again, not in the best of health. There is within Saudi Arabia a very big question looming. When the succession drop to the next generation. The next generation, educated, by and large, abroad. A very different generation to this older generation that's in power right now. That's not happening. What should we expect? We should expect King Salman very much to continue power in the same vein as King Abdullah. Don't expect any big changes initially at least. Nick Robertson, CNN, London. HARLOW: Nic, thank you for that. And when those changes do come to

Saudi Arabia they could affect the United States as well. Keep in mind, Saudi Arabia is the one who really controls the global price of oil since they are such a big producer. Also they are a U.S. ally in the fight against terror. Very critical for the U.S. strategically. We'll talk about it next. Strong, stay active with boost.


HARLOW: Saudi Arabia's royal family is not small. The father of modern Saudi Arabia has 45 sons. All of the kingdom's monarchs have come from his line. So, will Saudi Arabia see anything different? Democracy in our lifetime? Or will the line of kings remain unbroken?

Joining me now to talk about this, James Smith. He's a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia. And he joins me this evening from Washington. Thank you for being here.

JAMES SMITH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SAUDI ARABIA: Poppy, it's good to be with you, thank you.

HARLOW: Let's get your sense of this, you know, this successor, right? King Salman. Very old. Same family. A lot of people are asking is anything going to change? Will we see anything different?

SMITH: Well, you say very old. He's 79. That is a culture that respects age and the wisdom that goes with age. Salman as the governor of Riyadh was known as one of the hardest-working people in government. And he continued that trend as he assumed the portfolio of the ministry of defense and the crown prince. So I don't think age is an issue here. His health for a 79-year-old seems to be solid. And he's surrounding himself with a younger group of people that can help execute decisions. So I think we've got a positive transition here.

HARLOW: So he's also been praised as a reformer. Is that the reality? Is there a real sense of reform that will get reform perhaps critically on some of the major human rights violations in Saudi Arabia?

SMITH: Well, Poppy, you tend to think that an absolute monarch can do whatever he wants to do. And the reality of it is that king of Saudi Arabia has constituencies he has to deal with. And he's got a population that's half ultraconservative and the other half looking to modernize. And one of the initiatives that King Abdullah put in place back in 2007 was a modernization of the judicial system, which hasn't actually taken place yet. If Salman can effect that change, then you will see something different, some of these judgments that are being put out. But I think the direction of modernization for the kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been set, and that King Salman will continue that.

HARLOW: And what does that direction look like? Right? Because here we are sitting in the U.S. in a democracy and saying, you know, are we going to see a democracy in Saudi Arabia in our lifetime. But is that really the appropriate question? You know the people of Saudi Arabia. Is that what they want? SMITH: No, they want a responsive government. The form of government

is not nearly as important to them as stability and a responsive government that's responsive to the needs of its people. And if you look at the issues that people have been focused on since the beginning of the Arab Spring, it's things like housing and jobs, focus on corruption, the security apparatus. And in all those things, King Abdullah was responsive to but in a gradual way. I don't think you're going to see a move toward democracy in the near-term in a democratic system -- in a tribal system, democracy doesn't operate the same as we understand it here in America.

HARLOW: Very important point. Ambassador, thank you for coming on. Thank you for the perspective. I appreciate it.

SMITH: Poppy, have a wonderful day. Thank you.

HARLOW: You as well.

Coming up next, ready for some football? Deflate gate has thrown a shadow over the NFL's biggest game. The billion dollar extravaganza known as the Super Bowl. It could also tarnish the legacies of two of the game's biggest names, Coach Bill Belichick and also quarterback Tom Brady. Our expert panel looks at the alleged offense, the suspects, and the potential punishment, next.

But first this month on ones to watch our series here, we're looking at the work of a Nigerian architect who's building around water.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Kunle Adeyemi has been selected by the prominent architect David Adjaye as one to watch. His work is focused on building on and around water. One of his major projects is here in the community of Makoko in Nigeria.

KYNLE ADEYEMI, ARCHITECT: Makoko is a settlement in the lagoon area of Lagos, and that is really right in the heart of the city. And it's a settlement with houses built on stilts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Adeyemi was happy to help when Makoko needed to put its community school on a firmer foundation. And so the floating school was built.

ADEYEMI: This is the school bell. So we're on the ground floor of the floating school. And this is basically 100 square meters, it's 10 meters by 10 meters wide, and it is basically floating on about 256 barrels.

DAVID ADJAYE, ARCHITECT: All the criticism of a shantytown are valid, but the one thing that you can't level against it is its ability to respond to a human condition, which is to create habitation. And nothing we've invented can react as fast as these shantytowns react.


HARLOW: You can watch the full show on to watch. Back in a moment.


HARLOW: Hey, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Rachel Nichols. We are going to spend the rest of the hour talking about one of the week's biggest stories. How did 11 footballs turn into a scandal that could overshadow the biggest game on the planet, the Super Bowl? Deflate gate is the controversy that just will not go away, Poppy.

HARLOW: And this week should have been about the buildup to the big game, the Super Bowl. And the legacy of these two men, Coach Bill Belichick and also QB Tom Brady.

NICHOLS: And their incredibly partnership which includes six trips to the Super Bowl and three titles. But instead it's about whether their team cheated to win its last game. Last hour, Belichick spoke to the media. He said his team tested footballs. A little physics lesson there. Suggested that losing air pressure can happen naturally. Take a listen.


BELICHICK: We found that once the balls, the footballs were on the field over an extended period of time -- in other words, they were adjusted to the climactic conditions and also the fact that the balls reached an equilibrium without the rubbing process that after that had, you know, run its course and the football had reached an equilibrium, that they were down approximately 1.5 pounds per square inch. And I can tell you from all the footballs that I've handled over the last week, I can't tell the difference if there's a one-pound difference or half a pound difference in any of the footballs.


NICHOLS: All right. Here to talk about this is our expert panel, former pro-quarterback Rodney Peete, Boston sports commentator Michael Holley, author of "Patriot Reign." Jim Daopoulos, NFL rules analyst for ESPN and the supervisor of officials, for I think eleven years there, right Jim?


And Michael Naughton, a physicist, the chair of the Physics Department at Boston College. We did not think we would need a physicist on this show.

HARLOW: But we do. After hearing for Bill Belichick.

NICHOLS: We are adding a physicist because Bill Belichick says, he is not a scientist. But sir, you are. So I want to start with you. Does his explanation make sense?

MICHAEL NAUGHTON, PHYSICS DEPARTMENT, BOSTON COLLEGE: The explanation that I heard, I didn't catch all of the press conference today because I was driving. But it basically seems that I as well as several other physicist and chemists the last several days, like you know, that being pressurize the balls at one temperature and measure them later at a cold temperature you're going to get a drop in pressure. And the temperature we're talking about, you're going to get one or two PSI drop in pressure.

The other thing I and many other people have been saying, the exact details, what temperature, initial time, but temperature later, what was the initial pressure, how were they calibrated, lots of other things.

NICHOLS: I'm going to ask you to help me with the math here, because you do this for a living.


NICHOLS: The report, the initial report that kicked this off says that the Patriots fell 2 PSI below the range. The rage is only 1 PSI wide. It's 12.5 to 13.5. The report also stated -- and there have been multiple reports since then -- the Colts did not fall below the range.


NICHOLS: So even if the Colts started at the top, 13.5 and Patriots started at the bottom, 12.5 -- This is information we don't know for sure yet because the NFL hasn't told us. No matter what happens there with the atmosphere and the balls being tested inside the officials' locker room and outside to the field where it was 51 degrees, not 30 or 20 but 51 degrees, how could only one team fall out of range if the range is only 1 PSI?

MICHAEL NAUGHTON: Depends on the details. Is it so that the NFL said that the Colts did not fall outside? Or was that sort of hearsay reports?

NICHOLS: We've got multiple reports from multiple sources multiple confirmations from the NFL. The NFL says after testing both teams they're only investigating the Patriots. That's sort of as much tacit confirmation we would need of that. That's sort of where the big question is now on this atmospheric explanation.

MICHAEL NAUGHTON: The fact of the matter is one can probably come up with a reasonable explanation for it. For example, the Patriots started theirs inside in a warm room at 12.5. The Colts started theirs that warm room at 13.5. They both go out to the same temperature outside. We have to presume that, right? On the field it's the same temperature both sets of balls. But if the Colts' room in which they pressurized the 13.5 was not as warm as the Patriots room in which they pressurized at 12.5, then the Patriots drop by two, supposed to drop by one, and the Patriots are outside the range and the Colts are inside the range.

HARLOW: So, Michael Holley, to you.

I'd like your take on Bill Belichick's press conference and the fact that he said not once but at least twice, this is the end of this subject for me for a long time. I mean, he says we've done this study. We know that we did nothing wrong. And that's really it. He welcomed the NFL investigation. But I mean, you're a sports commentator. Any chance this is the end of it for him, even ahead of the Super Bowl?

MICHAEL HOLLEY, BOSTON SPORTS COMMENTATOR: Yeah. I think when he said this is the end of it, those of us who have dealt with him -- Rachel knows this very well -- he says he's not going to talk about it. He's very good at giving you one mantra over and over to kind of shut you down and say hey, we're moving on to Cincinnati or we're on to Seattle or I've told you everything I know what you said earlier in the week at this press conference. I think people need to note history of Bill Belichick and this commissioner, Roger Goodell. There's no love lost between these two. Belichick is very angry that before on the eve of Super Bowl XLII, the last time they were in the Super Bowl, against the giants, even that game he's talking with the league for five hours about an unsubstantiated report about taping the St. Louis Rams walk through before Super Bowl XXXVI. So that wasted five hours of his time. He's still I think very upset about that. So there's a lot going on here that is not obvious on the surface.

NICHOLS: And, Jim, I want to bring you in.

You were a NFL for so long. You served as the supervisor of officials. One question for you about Bill Belichick's press conference, he sort of made it sound as if the officials inflate the balls.


NICHOLS: I read things you have said in the past the officials will bring things up to inflation if the balls are not properly inflated when they get them. Can you clear up for us exactly what the procedure is there?

JIM DEAPOULOS, NFL RULES ANALYST, ESPN: Absolutely. What happens is each equipment manager will put together 12 balls, for the Colts, 12 footballs, for the Patriots, 12 balls. Those footballs go into the referee's locker room. At that time -- and again, it is an 80-degree locker room where the referees will check the pressure. They will check to see where the pressure is. If the Patriots' footballs come in at 12.5 pounds, they do not touch them.

If they come in at 11.5 pound, they will pump them to 12.5 pounds. If they come in at 13.5, they leave them at 13. The officials just have to leave the ball -- the footballs between 12.5 and 13.5. And that's their only requirement. So what happens to the balls at that time -- it's interesting to hear about this atmospheric pressure, et cetera. All I know, as an official, we used to prepare the footballs. We would keep them in that warm locker room. Then as they go outside then they become used. We never ever check the footballs again once the game begins.

NICHOLS: Can you come up with any explanation why one team's footballs would fall more than one PSI out of range while the other teams wouldn't?

DEAPOULOS: The only thing that I could think of is the Patriots come in at 12.5, the Colts come in at 13.5. All the footballs are kept together. They don't separate the footballs. They all go out together with the referee and the head linesman about 10 minutes before kickoff. So they're brought out to the ball boys who then have control of the footballs. Why a certain number -- I guess the thing I'm trying to find out is, what was the actual number?

The league is saying or someone is representing that the footballs were two pounds or two PSIs below the number. Is that two PSIs below 13.5 or two PSIs below 12.5? We don't have enough information from the league, from their investigators, to know exactly where the footballs -- what the number was and where they all lie, where the Colts and Patriots footballs ended up. How much of a difference was there in the final outcome of the whole situation that they're going through right now?

NICHOLS: Right. Right. That's really the point, right? If it was more than one PSI the weather is not enough of an excuse. Fit was less than then maybe there's enough variance with the weather. We don't know. The NFL hasn't told us.

Rodney Peete, you know how a football feels, though. You heard Bill Belichick talk about the fact he couldn't tell the difference with one PSI, maybe a little bit, with two PSI, Tom Brady says he can't feel it at all. What do you think?

RODNEY PEETE, FORMER NFL PLAYER: I agree that if it started at 13.5 and it's below and two pounds below and it goes to 11.5, we don't know the difference. What I like to put to rest, though -- let's take Bill Belichick out of this conversation. It is strictly 100 percent between the quarterback and the equipment manager. That is all. The quarterback feels the balls before on Friday or Saturday, gets the balls that he likes, turns them in. And then it goes to the officials. The head coach, the offensive coordinator, anyone else has nothing to do with this. So when Bill Belichick says I have no idea what's going on, that's between Tom Brady and what he likes, I 100 percent agree with him.

NICHOLS: That's interesting.

Well, hold that because we're going to have you back, all of you guys back after the break.

And Belichick certainly is a coach that a lot of people around the country outside of New England love to hate. A quarterback known for his talent and, of course, his looks and famous wife. We're going to take a closer look at both men in the center of this storm. Stay tuned.


NICHOLS: Deflategate might not matter quite as much if it weren't for the two guys at the center of it, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

HARLOW: Loved by Pats fans but loathed by a lot of opposing fans. Brady insists no matter what happened, he didn't do it.


TOM BRADY, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS QUARTERBACK: I didn't alter the ball in any way. I have a process before every game where I go in and pick the balls that I want -- the footballs they want to use for the game.

I don't want anyone touching the balls after that. I don't want anyone rubbing them, putting any air in them, taking any air out. To me those balls are perfect and that's what I expect when I show up on the field.


HARLOW: All right. Before we bring in our expert panel, I do want to ask you, Rachel, I sat and we aired live this entire press conference by Bill Belichick. He was defiant. He was dismissive. He said I'm not talk about this anymore. What did you make of just what he said and how he said it?

NICHOLS: Well, this was pretty classic Bill Belichick, right? He wants to set the agenda. For four or five days now, a lot of people have been saying, hey, the footballs didn't let the air out of them themselves. So what is the plausible explanation? So this was a pretty great move on the Patriots part, I thought, to come up with an alternate explanation. Now, is it the accurate explanation? We're going to have to wait for a NFL investigation. They're the ones who have access to a lot of things that the rest of us outside of the league don't have. We hope that that is really thorough. We're going to have to wait and see. There's a "GQ" article about how Robert Kraft is close to Roger Goodell.

HARLOW: We heard him come out and say we've whatever they've asked for we've cooperated in this investigation. Still we have very little details from the league.

I want to bring in our panel here, though.

Look, Michael, we talked about Spygate earlier. This is Bill Belichick. This is Tom Brady. What about shifting the rules and getting the most out of the rules, how people are going to look at them, even if no further evidence comes in on this and we never know for sure?

MICHAEL HOLLEY: It all goes back to Spygate. Think about what we're talking about here. Robert Kraft said in the statement that he released to the media. The league sent him a letter on Monday and said we're going to launch an investigation into the air pressure of the football. The game was played on Sunday night there. Were people still on the field technically on Monday morning? So there was no conversation about what happened with the football. It was an assumption of guilt because it is the Patriots Spygate happened in September of 2007. And I believe that this is still the residue of Spygate.

And I also have to say this. A lot of people talk about the Patriots and say there's a culture of cheating there. They've done so many things. There are so many incidents. The big incident was Spygate. There was no other cheating involved with the Patriots since September of 2007. They got caught. They were penalized. They lost a first round pick. Bill Belichick was fined $500,000. There was that erroneous report that "The Boston Herald" put out in February of 2008 that was dismissed and "The Herald" took the unprecedented step of issuing a front-page and back-page apology saying we were wrong. But I think a lot of people get it twisted. They think that the Patriots were guilty of taping the St. Louis Rams before Super Bowl XXXVI. The one thing that stands out, Rachel, is Spygate, and that's the issue.

NICHOLS: I want to get back to something Bill Belichick said.

Jim, he said that part of the issue, too, is how they prepare and treat the footballs before they even bring them to the officials. He talked about rubbing them with a substance that could add artificially one extra psi. Have you heard about anything like this before? How does something that you treat a football with inflate the air inside the football?

DEAPOULOS: That is the first time I've ever heard that kind of a comment. I can tell you, as an official -- and the official's job is strictly to receive the footballs from the equipment manager. And making sure that they meet the specifications of the National Football League. They do kind of a field test to kind of get to see if it's tacky or if it's smooth, et cetera. But basically the quarterback has OKed it. Now are going to take a gauge given to them by the National Football League and they are going to insert the gauge. They are going to check the PSIs. Now, if as I said earlier, if it's 12.5, it's OK. If it's 13.5, it's OK. If it hits any other number, they will either inflate or deflate the ball. But it's not a very difficult procedure. And it's something that the officials take very seriously and they make sure that they do what they're supposed to do and they put the stamp, the referee will put a stamp on the ball. Once the game begins, as an official, all you're looking for is, does that ball have the referee's stamp on it. And that's the ball we're going to play with.

NICHOLS: Troy Aikman, NFL Hall of Famer, had something to say about this. Take a listen.


TROY AIKMAN, NFL HALL OF FAME FOOTBALL PLAYER (voice-over): It's obvious Tom Brady had something to do with this. The balls that have been deflated, that doesn't happen unless the quarterback wants that to happen, I can assure you of that.


NICHOLS: Now, Rodney, you're also a part of that. What do you think about Troy Aikman and his comments here?

PEETE: Well, part of it I think he's absolutely right. That it all falls on the quarterback and his preference. And I can tell you there's different types of rituals. Some clubs put the balls in a dryer with towels to get them warmed up and ready for play. Guys that rub oil all over them, do different things. During the course of the game I can also tell you that there are sometimes when you feel a ball during the course of the series and say that ball's too hard or that ball's too soft. Get that ball out of the game. That happens. That happens a lot. I've been on six different teams and played with a lot of different quarterbacks. Some like them hard, some like them soft. And it's all about the quarterback. So the quarterback is the one that really decides what that ball is going to feel like.

HARLOW: And that's what we've been hearing over and over from quarterback after quarterback after quarterback. Many of them saying that they do not believe Tom Brady. The NFL really still at the beginning of this investigation.

Coming up after a quick break we're going to talk about this. If the Patriots deflated their footballs deliberately, yes, it is cheating. But if it happened that way, is it as bad as, say, using steroids to get ahead? We're going to examine one player's take on this controversy next.


NICHOLS: Fans aren't the only ones ticked off about Deflategate. A lot of players are also furious at the idea that the Patriots may have done so to win.

Among them, Baltimore Ravens defensive end, Chris Canty. He played the Patriots two weeks ago, a game the Ravens lost by only four points.

He had this to say last week, quote, "What I'm going to say about the deflating of the balls. To me, there is no difference than performance-enhancing drugs. You are cheating at that point."

Chris Canty joins me by phone from Baltimore.

Hello, Chris.

Why do you think this is --


CHRIS CANTY, BALTIMORE RAVENS DEFENSIVE END (voice-over): Hey, Rachel. How you doing?

NICHOLS: I am very good. Nice to hear your voice.

Your insight into this, since you just played the Patriots for them to get to the game that is in such question here, why is this as bad as steroids fit's true and we don't know yet if it's true?

CANTY: Well, I used the PED analogy because it attacks the integrity of game and competition. You want to be on a level playing field. And whether you're violating the NFL rules in the sense of deflating the balls to get an advantage that way or whether you're taking banned substances to get an advantage that way, you're still taking it upon yourself to get a competitive advantage outside of the NFL rule book.

NICHOLS: There's been some whispers around the NFL whether the Ravens noticed anything in your guys' game against the Patriots. Have you talked to your teammates? Did anybody notice anything in your game?

CANTY: Well, you know, no one said anything to me about that during the course of the football game and I haven't heard from any of my teammates about that to this point, so I'm not going to, you know, speculate on what took place in our ball game. But I can tell you from the facts that have come about already about Deflategate, there was a clear violation of the NFL rule book. And whether the Patriots intended to violate this rule or not, there was still a violation of the rules and someone has to be held accountable.

And that's the other part of the PED analogy. As players, we're responsible for what we put in our bodies. Whether we knew we put a banned substance in our bodies or not, you know, we're still responsible for it if you test positive, you know, we have to -- we have to adhere to the policy in place and have a suspension. The same goes for Coach Belichick and his staff and the Patriots players. There was a clear violation of the rules, and because there was a -- the ball was deflated, there has to be some consequence for them.

NICHOLS: It's interesting take, whether they cheated intentionally or not may or may not matter.

Thank you, Chris. Your perspective is valuable. We appreciate your time.

CANTY: Thank you.

NICHOLS: We've presented all the evidence which has been released to the public about Deflategate. We'll hand it off to our panel of experts here and in the next segment find out what their verdict is. Are the Patriots guilty? If they are, how should they be punished?


NICHOLS: Right now, the New England Patriots will play in the Super Bowl. That's going to happen no matter what. While the coach talked for a while today, the players, well, they are not saying much. Take a listen.


DONT'A HIGHTOWER, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS LINEBACKER: It is what it is. At the end of the day, we can't control any allegations. All we can do is play ball. Our goal is to win.


HARLOW: Many fans seem to have already decided for themselves though. Take a look at this. This is the cover of "The Boston Globe" sports section from this week. And it says, "The Lombardi Trophy awarded to the Super Bowl winner," with a deflated football on the top.

NICHOLS: Let's take a show of hands from the panel. Without naming names, who thinks somebody on the Patriots did this?

That this was intentional? Can we get a hand up?

Nobody. OK. That is interesting. We have a panel of experts here. Everybody thinks this was just a consequence of the weather, the factors of the football. Nobody thinks it was intentional.


NICHOLS: -- on the Patriots' part.

Absolutely. But it is interesting that as more explanations come out, I think there are people coming over and say, you know what, maybe there were atmospheric conditions or other reasons this happened. The truth is it's going to be hard to prove either way.

HARLOW: It is going to be hard.

Guys, I wanted your take on this.

Jim, let me get your take on this.

If, indeed, something intentional was done to give the Patriots a benefit, what should the punishment be? A fine? Suspension? Draft picks? What is the right consequence for an action like that?

DEAPOULOS: You know, it's kind of amazing to me, and after I listened to Chris' explanation and how can you put this in the same category as a controlled substance that's illegal, how can that be the same penalty as somebody -- as a pound of air coming out of a football? You know, is there a competitive disadvantage? I don't know. You know, as Rodney said, I don't think the players could tell the difference between one or two pounds of air. You know, something happened there and I'm really anxious to find out from the National Football League what happened.

But, gosh, you know, players don't wear the proper equipment. Is that a competitive disadvantage or is that just against the rules or does that have something to do with the integrity of the game. They're fined for that. If they fine somebody that's done this, let's find them. That's all.

HARLOW: Jim, I want to jump in real quick.

And, Rodney, real quick here, if this is found to be completely consequential, the Patriots did nothing, what damage was this to Tom Brady's reputation and does he deserve an apology from people?

PEETE: I think he deserves an apology and it shouldn't tarnish his reputation at all. We live in a quarterback-driven league. The football is part of the quarterback's equipment, no different than a helmet, shoes, their facemask, anything else. He touches the ball on every single play. He should have the ball the way he wants it. This is absurd. And for Chris Canty to say this is equal to PEDs, that is a ridiculous statement.

NICHOLS: And, Michael, your quick last thoughts?

MICHAEL HOLLEY: You know, I want to piggyback on Rodney and Jim's point about Mr. Canty. With all respect to him, I do appreciate his candor and willingness to speak. A lot of athletes don't give their opinions. But, you know, NFL rule back is clear on this, and maybe that's the issue. The rule book says if there's a violation, if there is this under inflating, someone tampering with the ball, it is a $25,000 fine. For PEDs, for an athlete like Canty or anybody else caught with PEDs, that's probably a four-game suspension. I think if somebody went behind the back of the officials, OK, that's a real scandal. We have a serious topic here.