Patriots’ footballs were deflated and Brady, locker room staffers were in on it

The number one rule for locker room attendants: Ballboys are not allowed to ask any players, coaches, etc… for anything personal, including autographs while working.

That’s quoted word for word from the rules sheet I had to sign as a ball boy for the Indiana Pacers in 2008. It’s understood, accepted, and followed.

….

Unless, of course, one needs something in return in exchange for, say, breaking the rules for a player — which is what transpired in New England.

More than 100 days since the AFC Title Game between the Colts and the Patriots, Ted Wells completed a thorough examination into Deflate-Gate and released it to the public. (243 pages in all.)

The report is damning on the Patriots, specifically QB Tom Brady, an assistant equipment manager (John Jastremski), and a locker room attendant (Jim McNally). In short, this is what the report found.

  • The day before the game, Colts GM sent an email to league officials. “As far as the gameballs are concerned it is well known around the league that after the Patriots gameballs are checked by the officials and brought out for game usage the ballboys for the patriots will let out some air with a ball needle because their quarterback likes a smaller football so he can grip it better, it would be great if someone would be able to check the air in the game balls as the game goes on so that they don‟t get an illegal advantage.”
  • Head referee Walt Anderson was alerted of concerns pregame. The officials, as they always do, tested the 12 game balls provided by the Colts and Patriots, respectively, and they were fine. Shortly after, McNally dragged the Patriots balls into a side restroom for just over a minute, enough time to stick a needle in each of the 12 balls to let some air out.
  • McNally was interviewed by NFL Security after the game and said he didn’t go to the restroom before the game.
  • In the second quarter, Brady was intercepted and that ball was tested by a Colts equipment member and determined the ball was below the minimum — the average pressure drop exceeded the average pressure drop of the Colts by 0.45 to 1.02 psi — 12.5 psi level, and then informed NFL people.
  • At halftime, the 11 Patriots balls — one was intercepted and in the possession of the Colts — and four Colts balls. All 11 balls were below the minimum. They pumped them up to the appropriate level for the second half.
  • Once the story broke on Jan. 19, Jastremski, the equipment manager’s assistant, talked to Brady twice each day for three straight days and a total of an hour after not speaking with him for six months by phone. Brady also texted him a couple times to check in on and make sure he was OK.

The most interesting and troubling parts of the report are the text messages gathered between Jastremski and McNally.

From Oct. 24, 2014:

  • Jastremski: I have a big needle for u this week
  • McNally: Better be surrounded by cash and new kicks…or its a rugby sunday

From Jan. 7, 2015, eleven days before the AFC Title Game:

  • McNally: Remember to put a couple sweet pig skins ready for tom to sign
  • Jastremski: U got it kid…big autograph day for you
  • McNally: Nice throw some kicks in and make it real special

It’s not unusual for players to take care of locker room attendants that help them out and make runs for them, but not to this level. Not to where the attendant is demanding items, or where he gets Brady’s football that put him over 50,000 yards (and autographed, too!).

On Jan. 10, 2015, prior to the divisional game between the Patriots and Ravens, “McNally received two footballs autographs by Brady and also had Brady autograph a game-worn Patriots jersey.” McNally received more gifts, including Uggs.

During one of their exchanges, McNally referred to himself at the deflater and wrote “im not going to espn……..yet”

This is all but an admission, joking or not.

Brady hooked these staffers up with items to keep it on the low and to shut their mouths. McNally and Jastremski surely will be fired, but also leave with a nice sum of cash in exchange for their signature on a legal document stating they will never speak of what happened.

No two team employees just decided one day to deflate footballs. (I know. I was a locker room attendant for the Pacers for eight seasons, with the majority of the time spent taking care of the visiting team.)

[Former NFL ball boy explains the preparation of footballs]

Brady admitted he likes them at the minimum inflation level, 12.5 psi. He said that at his phony press conference where he tried to clear his name. And boy did he look terribly uncomfortable on that podium getting grilled. You could sense, no see, that something was up.

He did agree to an interview with investigators but refused to hand in his phone. Also, McNally, the locker room attendant — Patriots’ counsel refused to make him available for a follow-up interview once more information came to light.

If they were innocent, why all he hiding? And Brady still hasn’t responded to the findings.

The Ted Wells Report officially concluding that “it is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules.”

Moreover, “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.”

From January: Patriots deflate rules again — Goodell must harshly penalized Patriots, Belichick

With the report now complete, the NFL is on the clock. (Convenient, though, I will say, that it came a few days after the draft…) What are they going to do? What should they do?

It’s tough to say at this point, but remember “ignorance is not an excuse,” as Commissioner Goodell told the New Orleans Saints in regards to bounty-gate. I believe it’s reasonable to fine the Patriots $1 million, suspended Brady for six games, and have both staffers involved terminated.

This is an integrity of the league issue, a matter of “Protecting the Shield,” as the league office likes to say. And the Patriots have a history playing outside the lines. Spygate, anyone?

And Brady was having balls deflated to a preferred level, it makes you wonder how long it’s been going on. Like it or not, there will always be questions about how owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick, and coach Tom Brady went about things. And those four Super Bowls since 2001, including this year’s, they may have an asterisk next to them in NFL fans’ eyes.

That leads us to a better question: Why? Brady is an incredibly competitive player playing at the highest level. Perhaps his competitiveness and win-at-all-costs attitude got the best of him.

Regardless, this is a bad look for the team, a terrible look for Brady.

What say you, NFL?

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