Mike Kensil’s aim when he stomped from the Gillette Stadium press box down to the sidelines during the AFC Championship game was to ensnare the Patriots in a football-doctoring scandal.
What the NFL’s VP of Game Operations blundered into instead was a memorabilia scam. Run by an NFL employee. In which said employee (as-yet unnamed) took game-used footballs that were going to be donated to charity so he could hawk them and pocket the money.
And Jim McNally, the 48-year-old from New Hampshire who spent about 18 hours in the glare of a national spotlight as the latest face of Patriots evil? It looks like indignant media members who hoisted McNally up by his lapels and slammed him into the wall can let him down now. Maybe dust him off and give him a pat on the shoulder. No hard feelings, old chap.
McNally was just a fall guy for this NFL-employed scam artist, according to Adam Schefter, ESPN’s well-connected NFL insider. After ESPN put McNally in the crosshairs Tuesday night with a story saying McNally attempted to “introduce” an unapproved football into the game, Schefter winged in Wednesday afternoon with a source saying McNally was, in essence, the fall guy for an NFL employee’s scam to bilk money by stealing footballs. Which were designated for . . . charity.
Here’s the transcript of what Schefter said on television Wednesday afternoon.
I’ll take the liberty to tighten up that explanation. Again, this is Schefter’s reporting from -- it appears -- one source.
The issue began when an NFL employee who is supposed to -- presumably at game’s end -- take the game-used balls complete with official markings and get them ready for charity auctioning, swiped one in the first half. A second league employee noticed a ball was missing. He went to fetch another to give to McNally so McNally could in turn give it to alternate official Greg Yette so it could be put in play.
Meanwhile, the guy running the scam saw there was a hubbub about the balls. He tried to get the ball he swiped back into circulation by giving that to McNally as well.
So McNally’s cruising around with two footballs -- one marked for the game and one unmarked -- thanks to the scam the NFL employee was running.
Yette’s got balls flying at him. Marked. Unmarked. This McNally guy, a locker-room attendant who looks like Charlie Weis’ kid brother, is the point man. Yette lets Kensil know.
The Patriots have been Kensil’s Moby Dick for years, and now he thinks he's got ball shenanigans in progress in the AFC Championship Game. It must have Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and the Fourth of July all rolled into one for 'ol Mike . . . a 20-year employee of the Jets who happened to be in the front office when Bill Belichick left the franchise at the altar by resigning as the HC of the NYJ.
Now it was open season on pressure-checking, inflation, deflation and accounting for all footballs like a mother hen counting her eggs.
And the guy stealing the balls from charity?
Schefter reports he has since been fired. For the AFC Championship Game foolishness? Nope. Because, Schefter said, “That was a pattern of behavior that exists in this particular individual . . . ”
So Kensil -- whose title by definition puts the swindling NFL employee under his purview -- allowed an individual who had a pattern of stealing footballs designated for charity and selling them for personal gain to be on the sidelines for the AFC Championship Game?
It would seem that’s where we are.
And I cannot say “it seems” strongly enough. Because, until the investigation by Ted Wells concludes and there is no permanence to any report.
Eleven of 12 balls were two PSI under? No, it was around six and they’re under by a “few ticks.”
The Ravens tipped off the Colts to ball alleged ball chicanery? No, the Colts thought the Patriots’ footballs were soft when the teams played back in November.
D’Qwell Jackson thought the ball he picked off in the AFC Championship was soft? No he didn’t.
An individual takes the footballs into the bathroom before going to the field? Yeah, but he was only in there 90 seconds.
This report involving McNally was the latest item that excited people who want the Patriots to swing from the nearest branch. And now this report has gone limp, too.
Thanks, it must be noted, to the well-timed dime dropped to Schefter.
It’s poor form to speculate on sources. But my form sometimes sucks so I’ll just lob this out there. If Patriots ownership saw McNally -- a Regular Joe and longtime employee of the Kraft Group -- getting vilified for being at the end of a scummy scam run by an NFL employee, I wouldn’t be surprised if Patriots ownership decided they weren’t going to see McNally shredded for another news cycle.
Of course, Wells must have been pounding his forehead off a desk when Schefter’s report came out Wednesday afternoon. It’s like herding cats with these people and their backbiting, their whisper campaigns and their playground rivalries.
The NFL rakes in close to $10 billion in revenue every year. By 2027, they think they can pull in $25 billion a year.
Quite an operation. Quite an operation.
And it’s going to be hard for the guy in charge of the operations for the AFC Championship -- Kensil -- to come out of this looking real good. It seems.
-- Tom E. Curran, CSNNE.com