Patriots employees exchanged texts about Tom Brady and the air pressure in game balls
Report says it's "probable" that Patriots staffers released air from footballs during AFC title game
Patriots owner slams report as based on circumstantial evidence; Brady denies knowledge of any tampering
The evidence listed in Wednesday’s “Deflategate” report is eye-catching:
– Text messages between a part-time New England Patriots employee and an equipment assistant with talk of cash, free shoes and autographs.
– The part-time employee – a locker room attendant responsible for 12 footballs before the AFC title game – spending 100 seconds in a bathroom after game officials had approved the balls for play.
– Measurements taken at halftime after a team that is losing tips off the league about footballs that appear to be too soft.
– The Patriots’ star quarterback and the equipment assistant suddenly exchanging phone calls in the days just after news of underinflated footballs blew up.
Those are the key points in the 139-page NFL-commissioned report given to the league’s brass.
The Patriots beat the Colts 45-7 in the January 18 AFC title game and went on to win the Super Bowl. Controversy swirled after the Colts raised concerns that the footballs used solely by the Patriots’ offense in the first half were underinflated.
Report points finger at QB Tom Brady
The report, prepared by attorney Ted Wells, found that “it is more probable than not” that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was “at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities” of locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski, who has been with the team since 2001.
The report also found that “it is more probable than not” that McNally and Jastremski “participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee” in violation of NFL rules in the AFC Championship.
“Based on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady … was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities … involving the release of air from Patriots game balls,” Wells wrote.
The repeated use of the phrase “more probable than not” sparked immediate social media sarcasm, with one NFL fan writing on Twitter: “I have concluded that it is more probable than not that I will continue to not give a crap about Deflategate.”
It also prompted a radio sports host in Boston to tweet, “It is more probable than not that the Wells Investigation was a complete waste of time.”
The report said there was no evidence that any other Patriots player or staffer was involved, adding specifically that investigators do not believe coach Bill Belichick, any other coach or the team’s ownership took part in or knew of any wrongdoing.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice president of football operations, will decide on possible penalties and if the game-day process for delivering footballs to the field needs to be changed.
The evidence against Brady, a future Hall of Famer and a marquee player in the NFL, is largely circumstantial. He told investigators that he had no involvement and no knowledge of a plan to deflate footballs that would be used by the Patriots before the AFC title game.
But the report said his claims were not plausible and contradicted by other evidence. He also refused to turn over his cell phone.
The evidence linking Brady to the controversy includes texts where McNally and Jastremski discuss the quarterback and his air pressure preference that would affect the feel and ability to grip the football.
For instance, Brady was apparently upset after the balls used in an October game against the New York Jets (each team provided the balls used by its offense) had too much air in them. His criticism upset McNally.
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
New England won the game 27-25 and Brady completed just 20 of 37 passes.
In another text message sent before the season started, McNally calls himself the “deflator” and tells Jastremski that he needs some new shoes. Eleven days before the AFC championship game, McNally texts the equipment assistant and reminds him to have Brady autograph two footballs and to get him some shoes.
Below the minimum pressure
Brady completed 23 of 35 passes in the AFC championship game. Three passes were for touchdowns and one was intercepted.
Before the game, McNally brought the Patriots’ footballs to referee Walt Anderson, who determined all but two of the balls were properly inflated. They were adjusted, but when the official looked for the balls before heading to the field, they were missing.
Surveillance video showed that McNally had taken the Patriots’ and Colts’ balls – in violation of NFL procedure – to a bathroom and was in there for one minute, 40 seconds. McNally then took the balls to the field.
The Patriots took a 14-0 lead before one of Brady’s passes was picked off.
The report said that after the interception, a Colts equipment staff member measured the air pressure of the ball, one of the Patriots’ game balls, and told a game official and NFL personnel that the ball was below the 12.5 pounds per square inch minimum measurement.
At halftime, the alternate game officials measured the pressure in 11 of the Patriots’ 12 game balls and four provided by the Colts. The two sets of measurements differed by about fourth-tenths of one pound, but none of the 11 Patriots balls met the minimum standard.
The Patriots have said environmental factors such as cold temperatures led to the loss of pressure in the balls. The temperature at the stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, when the game began was around 50 degrees.
The report also found that three of the four Colts’ balls tested were underinflated when measured by one alternate official. The balls were 12.5 PSI or above when tested by the other official.
News of the Deflategate controversy was first reported on Twitter during the game by longtime Indianapolis sports columnist Bob Kravitz.
Investigators found Brady and Jastremski spoke on the phone six times over the next three days. The quarterback also sent text messages “seemingly designed to calm Jastremski (‘You good Jonny boy?’; ‘You doing good?’),” according to the report, which added the two hadn’t corresponded during the previous six months.
Investigators said the phone exchanges were evidence of Brady’s awareness to the scheme.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft was defiant in response to Wednesday’s report, saying he was disappointed in the findings and still believed the team did nothing to violate NFL rules.
Kraft criticized what he called “inferences from circumstantial evidence,” adding that “the time, effort and resources expended to reach this conclusion are incomprehensible to me.”
“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,” Kraft said.
Brady denied knowledge of tampering with footballs during his interview with investigators, according to the report. He answered questions voluntarily but declined to make available communications, including texts and emails, the report said.
Brady made the same denial to reporters on January 22, days after the game.
“I didn’t alter the ball in any way. I have no knowledge of wrongdoing,” Brady said.
He has not commented on the findings of the report.
CNN’s Jason Durand, Greg Botelho and Henry Hanks contributed to this report.