The NFL’s evidence that Tom Brady knew about a likely plot to deflate footballs before the AFC title game is circumstantial.
One of key pieces of evidence that led Wells to this conclusion is Brady’s level of communication with equipment assistant John Jastremski in the days after the scandal broke. According to the report, investigators believe that Jastremski and locker room attendant Jim McNally conspired to deflate the game balls before the AFC title game, with McNally physically deflating the balls using a needle provided by Jastremski.
After the scandal broke in the early morning hours of January 19, according to the report, there was a significant uptick in communication between Brady and Jastremski. Investigators found this suspicious. Jastremski, who was in charge of preparing balls for gameday, hadn’t talked to Brady over the phone or exchanged texts with him in six months going into January 19. Over the next 72 hours, according to phone records, they talked on the phone eight times and exchanged 15 texts.
The texts show Brady continually checked up on Jastremski after the scandal broke, talked to him multiple times a day, and even invited him to the quarterback meeting room to talk for the first time in Jastremski’s 20 years with the team.
Here’s all the communication between the two in the three days after the AFC title game, as detailed by the report.
January 19th, the day after the AFC title game: They talk on the phone four times for a total of 25 minutes and exchange 12 texts. It’s their first phone communication in six months.
According to the report, Jastremski read a ProFootballTalk article about the deflated football scandal at 7:04 a.m. the morning after the game. Twenty minutes later, at 7:25 a.m., he texted Brady asking him to call him:
Brady calls him a minute later, and they talk for 13 minutes. Jastremski initially told NFL Security that they didn’t talk about the deflated balls, but later told Wells that they did.
9:51 a.m.: Brady texts Jastremski checking up on him. Jastremski says he’s “still nervous:”
Brady (9:51 a.m.): You good Jonny boy?
Jastremski (9:53 a.m.): Still nervous; so far so good though. I’ll be alright
Brady (9:54 a.m.): You didn’t do anything wrong bud.
Jastremski (9:55 a.m.): I know; I’ll be all good
Brady told investigators he was just supporting Jastremski because he knew Jastremski was responsible for the condition of the balls. Jastremski told investigators he was joking when he said he was “nervous.”
10:54 a.m.: Jastremski texts Brady giving him a heads up that head equipment manager David Schoenfeld was going to interview him:
Jastremski (10:54 a.m.): FYI…Dave will be picking your brain later about it. He’s not accusing me, or anyone…trying to get to bottom of it. He knows it’s unrealistic you did it yourself…
Jastremski (10:55 a.m.): Just a heads up
Brady (10:59 a.m.): No worries bud. We are all good
Jastremski told investigators that the “it’s unrealistic you did it yourself” text was a joke.
2:30 p.m.: Brady texts Jastremski asking him to come up to the quarterback room, which is basically Brady’s office:
Brady (2:38 p.m.): Jj are you here?
Jastremski (2:38 p.m.): Yup
Brady (2:38 p.m.): Come to qb room
Brady says they discussed ball preparation for the Super Bowl. Jastremski has worked for the team for 20 years and Brady never called him into his office.
5:21 p.m.: Brady tells Jastremski to call him.
They talk for 12 minutes, again telling investigators they were talking about Super Bowl balls.
January 20th: They talk on the phone twice for nearly 10 minutes and exchange two texts.
7:24 a.m.: Jastremski tells Brady to call him.
They talk for about six minutes. Again Jastremski says they discussed Super Bowl balls, not the deflated ball scandal.
5:31 p.m.: Brady checks in:
They talk on the phone for three minutes. From the report:
“Jastremski said that he did not understand Brady’s text message to be a reference to the NFL’s investigation of the circumstances surrounding the AFC Championship Game, even though Jastremski had been interviewed by NFL Security that afternoon. Instead, Jastremski said that he understood Brady to be checking in because Brady knew that ‘it’s a pain in the butt’ to prepare over fifty footballs for the Super Bowl.”
January 21th: They talk twice on the phone and exchange one text.
7:27 a.m.: Brady texts him asking to call.
They talk for 13 minutes. Brady says they talked about Super Bowl balls. Jastremski says they talked about Super Bowl balls and his wedding.
11:45 a.m.: They talk on the phone for seven minutes.
It’s important to note that there isn’t a full electronic paper trail on Brady because he wouldn’t give investigators access to his phone, which investigators say “potentially limited the discovery of relevant evidence and was not helpful to the investigation.”
Is this (combined with other evidence suggesting Brady was vigilant about ball inflation levels) enough to conclude Brady was probably “generally aware” of the likely plot?
Brady’s camp certainly doesn’t think so. Brady “denied any knowledge of or involvement in any efforts to deflate game balls after the pre-game inspection by the game officials,” according to the report. His agent Don Yee released a blistering statement blasting Wells’ conclusion and accusing the league of staging a sting operation. Wells concludes otherwise, saying Brady it’s likely that Brady knew something.
Now it’s up to the NFL to make its own conclusions about what Brady knew and determine whether he should be punished.
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