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Seahawks' Richard Sherman fires first shot in Patriots 'Deflategate'

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman believes NFL won't punish Patriots

The NFL and the New England Patriots would love to take the air out of the biggest controversy heading into Super Bowl week. But Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks wasn't playing along Sunday when asked about the so-called "Deflategate" matter, and whether he expected the Patriots would be punished if found guilty of playing with deflated footballs in the AFC championship game.

"Probably not," the outspoken All-Pro cornerback said. "Not as long as [Patriots owner] Robert Kraft and [NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell are still taking pictures at their respective homes. He was just at Kraft's house last week for the AFC championship. You talk about conflict of interest.

"But as long as that happens, it won't affect them at all. Nothing will."

The NFL announced Friday that it has launched a thorough investigation of the situation, a probe headed by Ted Wells, who conducted the months-long study of the Miami Dolphins' bullying situation last year.

The Seahawks arrived in Phoenix on Sunday, and the Patriots are due to arrive Monday.

Asked about the general perception of the Patriots toeing the ethical line, Sherman said: "I think the perception is the reality. It is what it is. Their resume speaks for itself. You talk about getting close to the line. ... I don't really have a comment about that, but their past is what their past is, their present is what their present is."

Other members of the Seahawks had milder reactions when asked about the accusations the Patriots are facing.

"It has nothing to do with anything," said quarterback Russell Wilson, among a handful of players chosen to speak to the media after the Seahawks arrived at their hotel. "We're not focused on that."

Coach Pete Carroll said he empathized with Patriots counterpart Bill Belichick, who said he has never been aware of the issues surrounding the proper inflation of footballs.

"Awareness is up" for all NFL coaches, Carroll said. "It's an unfortunate situation that they have to deal with right now, and they're doing I'm sure everything they can to deal with it properly. It's not an issue for us, it's not a problem for us, other than our awareness has been elevated."

Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett sees an ulterior motive in all the "Deflate-gate" talk.

"I think it's all propaganda, just to get a chance to build the game up. It's all inflating the game right now," he said. "It's like just to make it even more worth it than what it's really about. It's really just about us, two great teams, playing. I think a lot of people are shying away from that aspect of it."

Out of nowhere

This matchup features quarterbacks Tom Brady and Wilson, drafted in the sixth and third rounds, respectively. Their stories are well known, but it's worth noting that both were considered somewhat obscure at one point.

What's more, to get to this point, Seattle and New England had to knock off teams quarterbacked by first-round picks Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay and Andrew Luck of Indianapolis.

"I think it's just a great statement about how competitive the league is and just because guys come in heralded doesn't mean that's a forever statement," Carroll said. "I think it's an opportunity for guys in our league, and our team in particular, to compete to show who they are and what they are, regardless of how they arrived."

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