The New England Patriots were found to have likely deflated balls during last season's AFC Championship game, according to the Ted Wells report released Wednesday. The report relied on interviews with numerous members of the Patriots and support staff, as well as text messages and phone records from those directly involved with the alleged deflation of footballs.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft released a statement following the release of the report admonishing its findings.
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.
The Wells reports came to two primary conclusions: 1) Jim McNally, the officials locker room attendant for the Patriots, and John Jastremski, the Pats' equipment manager, deliberately tried to release air from the team's game balls after they were examined by referees. 2) Quarterback Tom Brady was aware of what McNally and Jastremski were doing. In essence, even if Brady didn't order the balls to be deflated, he didn't do anything to stop the practice.
Evidence that Brady was aware of the deflated balls was found in text messages exchanged between McNally and Jastremski. The following exchange, for example, occurred.
Brady refused to cooperate fully with investigators by not turning over emails, text messages and other electronic communications requested by Wells and his group.
The "DeflateGate" controversy has caused many to draw parallels to the "SpyGate" scandal of 2007 that earned Belichick a $500,000 fine. The team received a $250,000 fine and was forced to vacate a first-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.
In his explanation of the SpyGate sanctions in 2007, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the Patriots made a "calculated and deliberate attempt" to skirt the rules. There was no similar wrongdoing found here, according to the report.
The league's initial investigation reportedly found that 11 of the 12 footballs provided by the Patriots against the Colts were under-inflated by two pounds below the minimum air pressure of 12.5 pounds per square inch. The deflated balls, which are easier to throw and catch, were used by the Patriots offense, and it wasn't until linebacker D'Qwell Jackson intercepted a pass from Tom Brady that the Colts became suspicious.
SB Nation presents: What happens when the NFL interviews a ball boy?