The New England Patriots and their lawyers have published a 20,000-word rebuttal to the Wells Report — which found the team probably intentionally deflated footballs before the AFC title game.
The rebuttal, which comes in the form of a bare bones webpage called wellsreportcontext.com, is an incredibly long, detailed attack on the report’s conclusions.
Some of its points are convincing (the league was warned about ball inflation levels and did nothing), while others are pretty tough to believe (the employee who called himself “the deflator” was just talking about losing weight!).
“The report rejects the simple and fully supported scientific explanation for the PSI drop and instead builds adverse inference upon adverse inference from speculative and circumstantial evidence in order to develop even the soft conclusions it reaches,” the team says.
The rebuttal says there’s no definitive proof that locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski plotted to deflate the balls, and there’s no definitive proof that Tom Brady knew about it.
But there’s a big problem here: the Patriots indefinitely suspended McNally and Jastremski, the two employees at the center of the scandal, without pay the day the Wells Report came out. In a statement, the NFL said owner Robert Kraft made the decision:
“Patriots owner Robert Kraft advised Commissioner Roger Goodell last week that Patriots employees John Jastremski and James McNally have been indefinitely suspended without pay by the club, effective on May 6th. Neither of these individuals may be reinstated without the prior approval of NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent. If they are reinstated by the Patriots, Jastremski is prohibited from having any role in the preparation, supervision, or handling of footballs to be used in NFL games during the 2015 season. McNally is barred from serving as a locker room attendant for the game officials, or having any involvement with the preparation, supervision, or handling of footballs or any other equipment on game day.”
If wellsreportcontext.com is to be believed, McNally and Jastremski did nothing wrong and the balls deflated by themselves due to environmental conditions. So why were they basically fired?
The rebuttal doesn’t mention any of this. It only vigorously defends the same two employees that the team punished internally.
Kraft and the team have denied any wrongdoing throughout this entire process. When the Wells Report was released, Kraft put out a statement saying, “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.”
But in that same statement he said he would accept any punishment handed out by the league, and on that same day, according to the NFL, Kraft indefinitely suspended McNally and Jastremski without pay.
We’ve reached out to the team asking for clarification on why McNally and Jastremski were punished.
In a statement after the league punished the team and Tom Brady, Kraft suggested that he might fight the decision, saying, “Despite our conviction that there was no tampering with footballs, it was our intention to accept any discipline levied by the league. Today’s punishment, however, far exceeded any reasonable expectation. It was based completely on circumstantial rather than hard or conclusive evidence.”
Despite that rhetoric, he’s the one who initially punished McNally and Jastremski. The Patriots can nitpick the details of the Wells Report all they want, but right now their actions with respect to the two employees at the center of the scandal undermine the central premise of their 20,000-word website.
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