Did the New England Patriots deliberately deflate game balls before their AFC Championship rout of the Indianapolis Colts? Probably.
That's according to just-released findings of the investigation into "Deflategate", the controversy that enveloped the league in the weeks leading to Super Bowl XLIX. The so-called "Wells Report," named after Ted Wells, the NFL-appointed attorney who led the inquiry, said it was "more than probable" that Patriots personnel purposely deflated balls meant to be used in the game, adding:
"After a comprehensive investigation, we have concluded 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 [they] were examined by the referee."
The report also said that, based on its findings, "it is more probable than not" that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was "at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski." During a January press conference, Brady denied he had any role in deflating the game balls, and told reporters "I have questions, too. There's nobody I know that can answer the questions I have."
However, in the Wells Report, Jastremski told investigators that he and Brady had discussed the under-inflated balls during a January 19 phone call – three days before the press conference.
Brady is probably going to have even questions for McNally and Jastemski now that the report is out: Because texts from both men are included in the findings, and, boy, did they appear to be mad at the face of the franchise. In response to Brady's complaints about the inflation of balls during an October game against the Jets, McNally and Jastremski engaged in a series of conversations in regards to the QB, which included: "Tom sucks," "Fuck Tom" and "The only thing deflating Sunday…is his passing rating."
The NFL is reportedly considering taking disciplinary actions against all three men. Despite that, the report concluded that "there was no deliberate attempt by the Patriots to introduce to the playing field a non-approved kicking ball," adding:
"Although Patriots personnel provided a kicking ball to game officials that did not have the distinctive inspection mark of the referee, we find the Patriots personnel involved believed the ball to be authentic and appropriate."
In a statement following the release of the Wells Report, Patriots chairman Robert Kraft said the team was "disappointed" by its findings, which, he said, "do not include any incontrovertible or hard evidence of deliberate deflation of footballs.
"While I respect the independent process of the investigation, the time, effort and resources expended to reach this conclusion are incomprehensible to me," Kraft said. "Knowing that there is no real recourse available, fighting the league and extending this debate would prove to be futile…we will accept the findings of the report and take the appropriate actions based on those findings."