The New England Patriots hit back at cheating claims on Thursday, with star quarterback Tom Brady denying the club had deflated balls to help them reach the Super Bowl. Brady and Patriots coach Bill Belichick both appeared on nationally televised press conferences to rebut the claims as the controversy swirling around America’s biggest sporting event reached fever pitch. NFL chiefs are probing allegations that balls used by the Patriots offence in their 45-7 rout of the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday were inflated below standard league levels – giving Brady and his team-mates an advantage by making them easier to handle. But Brady, one of the NFL’s biggest stars, flatly denied any involvement in the scandal dubbed ‘deflategate.’ “I didn’t alter the balls in any way,” said Brady, who is preparing for a record sixth Super Bowl in Arizona on February 1. “I feel like I have always played within the rules. I would never break the rules,” added Brady, a three-time Super Bowl winner and two-time NFL Most Valuable Player. Belichick said he was “shocked” to learn of the possibly illegal footballs on Monday. “I have never talked to any player, staff member about football air pressure,” Belichick said. “To me, the footballs are approved by the league and game officials pre-game, and we play with what’s out there.” Brady had originally laughed off the suggestion of wrongdoing. By Thursday, the 37-year-old superstar was aware of the magnitude of the issue. “It’s very serious,” Brady said. “Obviously, integrity of the sport is very important.” However, he added that he believed he and the Patriots would get through it. “Things are going to be fine,” he said. “This isn’t ISIS. No one’s dying,” he said, referring to the militant group waging war in Iraq and Syria. Brady said he had yet to be contacted by league officials about the issue, which seems certain to cloud the build up to the Super Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona. If the NFL does find the Patriots purposely under-inflated the balls, they could be subject to fines and the loss of draft picks.