NFL report finds it ‘more than probable’ Patriots deflated balls in playoff game against Colts

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NEW YORK (May 6, 2015) — An investigative report finds it probable that the New England Patriots deliberately deflated footballs and suggests quarterback Tom Brady was “generally aware” of it in the Jan. 18 AFC Championship against the Indianapolis Colts.

Here’s an excerpt from the executive summary of the report prepared by Ted Wells, who was tasked with investigating allegations that the Patriots used deflated footballs:

For the reasons described in this Report, and after a comprehensive investigation, we have concluded that, in connection with the AFC Championship Game, it is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules. 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. Based on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady (the quarterback for the Patriots) was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls

Read the full 243-page report here.

The report said there’s no reason to suggest wrongdoing on the part of Patriots coach Bill Belichick, head equipment manager Dave Schoenfeld or Patriots ownership. Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a statement about the report:

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.

According to the timeline of events laid out in the report, all but two of the Patriots’ game balls were properly inflated during the pregame inspection. Two tested below 12.5 psi, the low end of the threshold for game balls. The Colts’ game balls all tested at 13.1 or 13.0 psi, although “one or two footballs may have registered 12.8 or 12.9.” The report said it was evident the Colts were targeting 13.0 psi for their footballs, which were all within the “permissible range.”

However, when the officials headed to the field to start the game, they couldn’t locate the Patriots’ footballs. Referee Walt Anderson said it “was the first time in (his) 19 years as an NFL official that he could not locate the game balls at the start of a game.” He didn’t know Jim McNally, the Patriots employee responsible for delivering the Patriots’ game balls for inspection, had taken them to the field. Anderson said McNally didn’t have permission to do so.

Based on videotape evidence and eyewitness accounts, McNally removed the footballs around 6:30 p.m. He went down the center tunnel, ostensibly to take the balls to the field, but stopped and locked himself in a bathroom with the game balls. He stayed there for about a minute and 40 seconds, the report said. He emerged from the bathroom and toted the balls to the field.

In the weeks and months before the game, the report said McNally exchanged text messages with John Jastremski, the equipment assistant primarily responsible for preparing the Patriots’ balls. They discussed the air pressure of the 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.”

The report included the following exchange after a Thursday night game between the Patriots and New York Jets in which Tom Brady had complained about air pressure:

McNally: Tom sucks…im going make that next ball a (expletive) balloon

Jastremski: Talked to him last night. He actually brought you up and said you must have a lot of stress trying to get them done…

Jastremski: I told him it was. He was right though…

Jastremski: I checked some of the balls this morn… The refs (expletive) us…a few of then were at almost 16

Jastremski: They didnt recheck then after they put air in them

McNally: (Expletive) tom …16 is nothing…wait till next sunday

Jastremski: Omg! Spaz

Other text message exchanges discussed air pressure, “the needle” and interaction with Brady. During another text message from May 9, 2014, McNally referred to himself as “the deflator” and joked he “wasn’t going to espn…yet.”

During the second quarter of the game, Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson intercepted a pass from Brady. Colts equipment personnel then tested the football, finding it was well below the 12.5 psi benchmark and informed a game official. The Colts said they had reason to suspect the Patriots would use deflated footballs during the game, although they did not divulge the reasons why they held those suspicions. The Colts notified the NFL about the issue prior to the game. Based on the Colts’ suspicions and upon hearing about the underinflated football from the interception, the officials tested game balls at halftime.

Each of the Patriots’ 11 footballs tested at halftime measured below the 12.5 psi benchmark. Four Colts balls tested were between 12.5 and 13.5 psi. Only four of the Colts’ balls were tested because officials were running out of time before the start of the second half. The Patriots’ footballs were inflated to proper levels for the rest of the game.

The NFL consulted experts who said the amount of deflation in Patriots’ footballs could not have been a natural phenomenon, even though footballs will lose some pressure during a game. During tests, “the Patriots halftime measurements could not be replicated, and the pressures observed for the Patriots footballs by Exponent (a scientific and engineering firm) during its experiments were all higher.”

Scientific consultants could not prove that the footballs had been tampered with, but they “could identify no set of credible environmental or physical factors that completely accounts for the Patriots halftime measurements or for the additional loss in air pressure exhibited by the Patriots game balls, as compared to the loss in air pressure exhibited by the Colts game balls.” The report concluded that “the absence of a credible scientific explanation for the halftime measurements tends to support a finding that human intervention may account for the additional loss of pressure exhibited by the Patriots balls.”

Based on that, the Wells Report said “it is more probable than not” that McNally and Jastremski participated in a “deliberate effort” to release air from footballs after they were inspected by officials before the game.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft reacted swiftly to the report, questioning the amount of resources used to investigate and saying he believes the Patriots did nothing wrong:

“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.”

The Colts gave CBS4Indy the following statement:

The Indianapolis Colts are aware of the findings in the Wells Report and have no comment.

A couple of Colts players reacted to the news on Twitter:

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