New England Patriots staffers intentionally broke NFL rules by releasing air from AFC Championship Game balls, and star quarterback Tom Brady was "generally aware" of the violation, an official report released Wednesday concluded.
The investigation found that head coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft were not involved, nor did they have any "knowledge of wrongdoing."
"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," lawyer Ted Wells wrote in his report for the NFL.
"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, the Officials Locker Room attendant for the Patriots, and John Jastremski, an equipment assistant for the Patriots] involving the release of air from Patriots game balls."
[I]t is unlikely that an equipment assistant and a locker room attendant would deflate game balls without Brady's knowledge and approval. Based on our interviews and assessment of McNally and Jastremski, we also do not believe that they would personally and unilaterally engage in such conduct in the absence of Brady's awareness and consent.
Text messages between McNally and Jastremski show them appearing to carry out orders from Brady and that they had a contentious relationship with the quarterback:
McNally: Tom sucks...im going make that next ball a fuckin 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... I told him it was. He was right though...
The report found that a needle was used to deflate the footballs:
Jastremski: Can‟t wait to give you your needle this week :)
McNally: Fuck tom....make sure the pump is attached to the
needle.....fuckin watermelons coming
Jastremski: So angry
McNally: The only thing deflating sun..is his passing rating
The report also states that Brady declined "to provide emails and text messages in response to narrowly tailored requests pertinent to the subject of our investigation."
Soon after the report was made public, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement alluding to impending punishment:
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.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft called the findings "incomprehensible" as part of a lengthy statement disputing the investigation.
Tom Brady's agent, Don Yee, called the report's findings "a significant and terrible disappointment." Yee asserts the Patriots should have been informed that the Colts had raised concerns to the league about the Patriots' footballs. Brady's agent also claims that the report "omitted nearly all of Tom’s testimony, most of which was critical because it would have provided this report with the context that it lacks." For that, Yee concluded the report's premise is flawed.
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