PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The long-awaited NFL investigation into whether the New England Patriots deliberately deflated footballs last season is finally out, and the findings aren’t kind to the team.
The 243-page report by Ted Wells, an attorney hired by the league, says the evidence he reviewed shows that “it is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate attempt to circumvent those rules.”
The report goes on to say Jim NcNally, the Patriots’ Officials Locker Room attend, and John Jastremski, a Patriots equipment assistant, “participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls” after a referee had examined them to ensure they were inflated to regulation levels.
The report also says quarterback Tom Brady “was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.” But it clears coach Bill Belichick and team owners of any involvement.
“We do not believe that the evidence establishes that any other Patriots personnel participated in or had knowledge of the violation of the Playing Rules or the deliberate effort to circumvent the rules,” the report concludes.
In a statement, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft criticized the outcome of the probe, saying: “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.” He described the scale of the investigation as “incomprehensible.”
But, Kraft said, “Knowing that there is no real recourse available, fighting the league and extending this debate would prove to be futile.”
In his own statement, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell described the Wells report as “a thorough and independent investigation,” and said Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice president for football operations, will now determine what punishment if any the Patriots will face.
“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,” he said.
The controversy over the allegedly deflated footballs exploded in the hours after the Jan. 18 AFC Championship game, when the Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts to move on to the Super Bowl. The allegations that the Pats knowingly under-inflated footballs to gain a competitive advantage cast a shadow over the team’s triumphant championship run.
Among other findings, the report says one of the locker room attendants received two autographed footballs and an autographed game-worn jersey from Brady on Jan. 10, a week before the AFC Championship game.
The report suggests Brady declined to provide emails, text messages and phone records sought by Wells in the course of his investigation, though the quarterback did answer questions.
Separately, the reports clears the Patriots of allegations that the team deliberately put a non-approved kicking ball into play, saying it was done so inadvertently.