Ted Wells' investigation into the possibility that the New England Patriots were involved in deflating footballs for the AFC championship game has found that it's more likely than not some of the Patriots were guilty.
"Based on the evidence developed in connection with the investigation and summarized in this Report, we have concluded that it is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the NFL Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate attempt to circumvent those rules," the report, released Wednesday, said.
With that line on Page 121 of the massive report, it again questions the validity of the Patriots' great dynasty, which included a Super Bowl victory this past February, the fourth for coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady was specifically implicated as well.
"Based on the evidence, we also have concluded that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of [Jim] McNally and [John] Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls," the report said.
ESPN's Adam Schefter said the NFL is considering punishment for Brady.
The report said that it doesn't think owner Robert Kraft or Belichick knew of what was happening.
The report said all 11 of the Patriots' game balls, when re-tested at halftime, were below the minimum level specified by NFL rules of 12.5 psi. The four Colts game balls that were re-tested were between 12.5 and 13.5 psi, so they were within the rules.
Jim McNally, a seasonal and part-time Patriots employee for 32 years, was responsible for delivering the game balls to officials. There are text messages between McNally and Patriots equipment assistant John Jastremski that discuss the inflation of footballs through last season and Brady's displeasure over the level following a game against the New York Jets last season. Included in the texts are messages in which McNally referred to himself as “the deflator” and stated that he was “not going to espn……..yet.”
Here's a passage from the report in which it specifically addresses that Brady was unhappy with the inflation level of the Patriots' game balls.
"In the weeks and months before the AFC Championship Game, McNally periodically exchanged text messages with the Patriots equipment assistant primarily responsible for the preparation of the Patriots game balls, John Jastremski. In a number of those text messages, McNally and Jastremski discussed the air pressure of Patriots game balls, Tom Brady's unhappiness with the inflation level of Patriots game balls, Jastremski's plan to provide McNally with a “needle” for use by McNally, and McNally's requests for “cash” and sneakers together with the “needle” to be provided by Jastremski. A sports ball inflation needle is a device that can be used to inflate a football (if attached to an air pump) or release air from a football (if inserted alone into a ball)."
McNally and Jastremski are singled out in the report as probably being responsible for the deflated balls, with the report stating: "In particular, we have concluded that it is more probable than not that Jim McNally [the Officials Locker Room attendant for the Patriots] and John Jastremski [an equipment assistant for the Patriots] participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee."
The report said it is more probable than not that Brady was "at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski." Those are the only three implicated in the report. The report said investigators do not believe "any other Patriots personnel participated in or had knowledge of the violation of the Playing Rules or the deliberate effort to circumvent the rules."
After news of the possibly deflated footballs broke in January, Brady had a news conference in which he denied any wrongdoing and said about the game balls, "I don’t want anyone rubbing them, putting any air in them, taking any air out."
McNally took the game balls into a bathroom before the AFC championship game, locked the door and remained in there for approximately one minute and 40 seconds. He apparently took the game balls in a breach of standard pregame procedure, the report said. Referee Walt Anderson said it was "the first time in Anderson's nineteen years as an NFL official that he could not locate the game balls at the start of a game," according to the report.
The Colts tested a ball on the sideline after intercepting Brady and found it to be under 12.5 psi. The NFL was informed. Two alternate game officials re-tested the 11 Patriots' footballs at halftime. One was found to be as low as 10.5 psi. Only one football was found to be found to have more than 12 psi; one of the officials measured a football at 12.3.
The NFL examined whether the cold weather could have caused the big drop in the air pressure in the Patriots' game balls, but the report said "the reduction in pressure of the Patriots game balls cannot be explained completely by basic scientific principles." The pressure drop in the Patriots' game balls exceeded the drop in the Colts' game balls. The investigation also ruled out other factors such as ball preparation including the "vigorous rubbing" of the footballs described by Belichick in a news conference the week after the Colts game.
Here's a statement by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell:
I want to express my appreciation to Ted Wells and his colleagues for performing a thorough and independent investigation, the findings and conclusions of which are set forth in today’s comprehensive report.
"As with other recent matters involving violations of competitive rules, Troy Vincent and his team will consider what steps to take in light of the report, both with respect to possible disciplinary action and to any changes in protocols that are necessary to avoid future incidents of this type. At the same time, we will continue our efforts vigorously to protect the integrity of the game and promote fair play at all times."
Kraft (who memorably said the NFL should apologize if the Patriots were found to have done nothing wrong) put out the following statement, in which he questioned the "incomprehensible" findings of the report and how it would be "futile" to fight the league:
“When I addressed the media at the Super Bowl on January 26 – over 14 weeks ago – I stated that I unconditionally believed that the New England Patriots had done nothing inappropriate in this process or in violation of the NFL rules and that I was disappointed in the way the league handled the initial investigation. That sentiment has not changed.
“I was convinced that Ted Wells’ investigation would find the same factual evidence supported by both scientific formula and independent research as we did and would ultimately exonerate the Patriots. Based on the explanations I have heard and the studies that have been done, I don’t know how the science of atmospheric conditions can be refuted or how conclusions to the contrary can be drawn without some definitive evidence.
“What is not highlighted in the text of the report is that three of the Colts’ four footballs measured by at least one official were under the required psi level. As far as we are aware, there is no comparable data available from any other game because, in the history of the NFL, psi levels of footballs have never been measured at halftime, in any climate. If they had been, based on what we now know, it is safe to assume that every cold-weather game was played with under inflated footballs. As compelling a case as the Wells Report may try to make, I am going to rely on the factual evidence of numerous scientists and engineers rather than inferences from circumstantial evidence.
“Throughout the process of this nearly four-month investigation, we have cooperated and patiently awaited its outcome. To say we are disappointed in its findings, which do not include any incontrovertible or hard evidence of deliberate deflation of footballs at the AFC Championship Game, would be a gross understatement. In addition, given our level of cooperation throughout the process, I was offended by the comments made in the Wells Report in reference to not making an individual available for a follow-up interview. What the report fails to mention is that he had already been interviewed four times and we felt the fifth request for access was excessive for a part-time game day employee who has a full-time job with another employer.
“While I respect the independent process of the investigation, the time, effort and resources expended to reach this conclusion are incomprehensible to me. Knowing that there is no real recourse available, fighting the league and extending this debate would prove to be futile. We understand and greatly respect the responsibility of being one of 32 in this league and, on that basis, we will accept the findings of the report and take the appropriate actions based on those findings as well as any discipline levied by the league.”