The NFL released the Ted Wells report Wednesday, after taking several months to investigate the question of whether the Patriots were guilty of intentionally deflating game balls. The verdict was that it was “more probable than not” that the Patriots were involved in a deliberate attempt to circumvent the rules. The rules being that the game balls must be inflated between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch.
In particular, quarterback Tom Brady was singled out in the report as being aware of inappropriate activities.
Per the report:
“[W]e 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 the balls were examined by the referee. Based on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady (the quarterback for the Patriots) was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.”
The report goes on to conclude that there was no deliberate attempt by the Patriots to introduce a non-approved kicking ball during January’s AFC championship game against the Colts.
Perhaps more surprisingly, the report clears head coach Bill Belichick, who was once fined and docked a first-round draft pick for spying on an opponent’s signals, of any knowledge of wrongdoing. “We do not believe there was any wrongdoing or knowledge of wrongdoing by Patriots ownership, Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick or any other Patriots coach in the matters investigated.”
Still the report details plenty of questionable activity by McNally, the employee responsible for delivering the Patriots game balls to the game officials for pre-game inspection, on the day of the AFC Championship game.
According to the report, McNally brought the game balls into the Officials Locker Room several hours before kickoff. Referee Walt Anderson inspected the 12 Patriots balls, of which 10 measured around 12.5 psi. Anderson then had the other two balls inflated to the acceptable 12.5 psi pressure. (Meanwhile, all 12 of the Colts game balls were right around 13.0 psi—the middle range of the acceptable pressure—so no adjustments were made to theirs.)
This is where McNally’s suspicious activity comes into play:
“When Anderson and other members of the officiating crew were preparing to leave the Officials Locker Room to head to the field for the start of the game, the game balls could not be located. It was the first time in Anderson’s nineteen years as an NFL official that he could not locate the game balls at the start of a game. Unknown to Anderson, and without Anderson’s permission or the permission of any other member of the officiating crew, McNally had taken the balls from the Officials Locker Room toward the playing field. According to Anderson and other members of the officiating crew for the AFC Championship Game, the removal of the game balls from the Officials Locker Room by McNally without the permission of the referee or another game official was a breach of standard operating pre-game procedure.”
“Based on videotape evidence and witness interviews, it has been determined that McNally removed the game balls from the Officials Locker Room at approximately 6:30 p.m. After leaving the Officials Locker Room carrying two large bags of game balls (Patriots balls and Colts balls), McNally turned left and then turned left again to walk down a corridor referred to by Patriots personnel as the “center tunnel” heading to the playing field. At the end of the center tunnel on the left-hand side, approximately three feet from the doors that lead to the playing field, is a bathroom. McNally entered that bathroom with the game balls, locked the door, and remained in the bathroom with the game balls for approximately one minute and forty seconds. He then left the bathroom and took the bags of game balls to the field.”
The report then details text messages between McNally and Jastremski—the Patriots equipment assistant primarily responsible for the preparation of the Patriots game balls—about Tom Brady and the pressure of the game balls.
“In a number of those text messages, McNally and Jastremski discussed the air pressure of Patriots game balls, Tom Brady’s unhappiness with the inflation level of Patriots game balls, Jastremski’s plan to provide McNally with a ‘needle’ for use by McNally, and McNally’s requests for ‘cash’ and sneakers together with the ‘needle’ to be provided by Jastremski.”
Prior to the AFC Championship game, the Colts had notified the NFL that they thought the Patriots had been deflating game balls below the minimum level, though they didn’t have any evidence to support it. The NFL then notified the head of the NFL Officiating Department, Dean Blandino, and a senior officiating supervisor, Alberto Riveron (who was at the game), told Anderson about the concern. Anderson said he would follow his usual procedure to ensure the balls were properly inflated.
Then during the game, a ball thrown by Tom Brady was picked off by the Colts and taken to their sideline. On the sideline, Colts equipment personnel measured the inflation of the ball and found it to be below the 12.5 psi and informed a game official and other NFL personnel.
Riveron, after hearing that the intercepted ball was below the minimum level, had the game balls re-inspected at halftime. At halftime, 11 of the Patriots game balls (except for the one that was intercepted) were inspected and every one of them was now below the 12.5 psi. (All four of the Colts game balls were in the acceptable 12.5 to 13.5 psi range.)
The Patriots balls were then inflated back to the permissible range. Meanwhile, the intercepted ball was retained by the NFL and not returned to the field for the second half.
After the game, but before leaving the field, McNally was interviewed by members of NFL security, though he did not mention that he had taken the game balls into the bathroom.
“Instead, he stated that he walked directly to the field and that nothing unusual occurred during the walk from the locker room to the field. In subsequent interviews, McNally provided varying explanations for the bathroom stop and his decision not to utilize readily available bathroom facilities in the Officials Locker Room and adjacent Chain Gang Locker Room.”
The NFL has not announced any punishments against the Patriots, who went on to defeat Seattle 28–24 in Super Bowl XLIX.