“I usually tell a bunch of jokes at these events, but with the Patriots in town, I was worried that 11 out of 12 of them would fall flat,” Obama said, referring to the team’s Deflategate ball controversy.
He then looked at head coach Bill Belichick, who smiled and gave Obama a thumbs-down signal. “That whole story got blown a little out of proportion,” Obama acknowledged.
But jokes weren’t the only thing missing; also notably absent from the ceremony was quarterback Tom Brady. Team officials said Brady was unavailable because of a family commitment.
Brady, 37, visited the White House after the team’s three other Super Bowl wins, when George W. Bush was president.
The players visited Walter Reed Medical Center before heading to the White House and, after the South Lawn ceremony, owner Robert Kraft presented Obama with a No. 44 Patriots jersey and team helmet.
After accepting the gifts, Obama cracked one final joke.
"Coach Belichick has agreed to hold a press conference," he said, "and he's going to go on forever!"