The New England Patriots and their lawyers have issued a rebuttal to the Wells report and the investigation into whether or not the team intentionally deflated footballs used in the AFC Championship game.
While the Wells Report has no direct evidence of somebody deflating the footballs, it goes to great lengths to suggest that it occurred when locker room attendant Jim McNally took the bag of footballs into a bathroom without permission before the game started.
The Patriots’ rebuttal attempts to discredit this suggestion by arguing that it was no big deal that the footballs went missing from the officials’ locker room, and it was definitely not a big deal that McNally went to the bathroom with them.
According to the Wells report, McNally was seen taking two bags of footballs from the officials’ locker room 20 minutes before kickoff.
McNally did this “without [referee Walt Anderson’s] permission or the permission of any other member of the officiating crew,” according to the report.
The Patriots’ rebuttal argues that McNally did have permission to “remove the footballs from the part of the dressing room where game officials congregate pre-game.” This is corroborated by the Wells Report, which notes that Anderson had given McNally permission to move the footballs from the dressing area of the locker room to another part of the locker room, the sitting area.
At no point does either side say McNally had permission to remove the footballs from the locker room entirely.
McNally was then seen on video taking the bags of footballs out of the officials’ locker room. The Patriots argue that this was done in “full view of numerous League and game officials,” but never argue that this was done with permission or that he had permission to take the footballs into a bathroom.
The Wells Report emphasises the importance of the footballs going missing by noting that “it was the first time in Anderson’s 19 years as an NFL official that he could not locate the game balls at the start of a game,” and that when realised they were missing, he was “visibly concerned and uncharacteristically used an expletive.”
According to the report, surveillance video shows McNally taking the bags of footballs into a hallway bathroom for one minute, 40 seconds, which the NFL says was long enough to deflate the balls with a needle.
The Patriots counter this by arguing that there is no proof McNally didn’t just go into the bathroom to, you know, go to the bathroom:
“The report does not address whether one minute and 40 is consistent with the time that it takes a gentleman to enter a bathroom, relieve himself, wash his hands, and leave. In fact, it is. Nor does the report consider or acknowledge that, with the start of the game having been delayed, there was no reason for Mr. McNally to rush any efforts to deflate footballs in the bathroom if that was the task at hand. Mr. McNally had already been told that the start of the game had been delayed (from 6:40 to 6:50). He entered the bathroom with almost 20 minutes until game time. There was simply no need to rush were he engaged in releasing air from footballs — a process one would suspect would have to be done very carefully so as not to release too much air from any football. The one minute and 40 seconds in the bathroom was far more likely to have been for exactly the reason Mr. McNally gave.”
The other issue brought up in the Wells Report was that “McNally provided varying explanations for the bathroom stop and his decision not to utilise readily available bathroom facilities in the Officials Locker Room and adjacent Chain Gang Locker Room.”
The Patriots point to the Wells Report’s own findings that the officials’ locker room was crowded. At one point, the Wells Report quotes an official who said the sitting area “felt like Grand Central Station.”
The Patriots’ rebuttal argues that “one can draw no adverse inferences from an attendant deciding not to use the crowded facilities” even though there is no indication in the Wells Report that the actual toilet area was crowded.
The Wells Report is filled with a lot of circumstantial evidence and argues that taken as a whole, the picture is clear, the Patriots cheated. The Patriots are now going to great lengths to poke holes in all of the evidence.
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