The NFL has finished its investigation into the New England Patriots and concluded that the team likely intentionally broke league rules and deflated footballs used in the AFC title game.
While the investigation focuses on the actions of two employees, locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski, the report also concludes that Tom Brady “was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.”
This is a pretty damning accusation against one of the NFL’s biggest stars.
The league’s evidence against Brady centres on three main points: 1) his reaction to the condition of game balls used in a Week 7 game against the New York Jets in October, 2) how he interacted with McNally and Jastremski following subsequent games, and 3) how he communicated with the two after Deflategate exploded.
The report points to evidence of Brady’s interest and knowledge of ball inflation levels as early as October 2014, several months before the AFC Championship game. In a text message exchange between McNally and Jastremski following a game against the Jets, Brady is portrayed as angry about the condition of the footballs (NSFW language below):
The next day, Jastremski responded to a text about footballs saying he spoke to Brady, who mentioned McNally must “have a lot of stress trying to get them done.”
Prior to the next game McNally and Jastremski — who were venting about Brady at that point — had another exchange about the conditions of the balls, and specifically referenced the use of a needle.
If you’re having trouble following this, McNally is talking about retaliating against Brady by inflating the balls with a needle and pump, rather than deflating them with just a needle, suggesting Brady’s preference is a deflated ball.
According to the report, investigators believe the McNally and Jastremski “planned for McNally to deflate the balls below that level following the pre-game inspection using a needle provided by Jastremski.”
In addition to those texts, McNally receiving gifts from Brady during the playoffs, according to the report, even though text messages indicate that Brady did not usually give McNally any special items.
Jastremski confirmed to the NFL that he passed along a sweatshirt and a pair of sneakers to McNally from Brady “sometime around January 7, 2015,” prior to the Patriots first playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens.
Several days later, McNally also received two autographed footballs and had Brady autograph a jersey McNally had obtained earlier.
After the Deflategate scandal broke on January 19, the investigation concluded that there was also a “material increase in the frequency of telephone and text communications between Brady and Jastremski.”
“Jastremski and Brady spoke to each other on the telephone four times on January 19 (the day after the AFC Championship game), for a total of 25 minutes and 2 seconds. They also exchanged a total of twelve text messages. Jastremski and McNally spoke to each other on the telephone five times after 7:00 a.m. on January 19, for a total of 57 minutes and 59 seconds. McNally also sent Jastremski a text message that day.”
According to the investigation, Jastremski first contacted Brady via text message at 7:25 a.m., just 21 minutes after accessing a story on his computer about allegations of deflated footballs. Brady then called Jastremski one minute later. It appears to have been their first “phone-based communications (phone conversations or text messages) in six months,” according to the report.
Later that morning, Brady and Jastremski exchanged text messages with Jastremski admitting he is “nervous” and at one point telling Brady, “He knows it’s unrealistic you did it yourself.”
The investigation goes on to document numerous other phone and text conversations between Jastremski and Brady over the next few days, a volume deemed unusual. In addition, Brady took what was called an “unprecedented step” of meeting with Jastremski in the QB room at Gillette Stadium, the report says, the first time Jastremski had ever done that in 20 years as a Patriots employee.
While the report does conclude that there is “less direct evidence linking Brady to tampering activities” than McNally or Jastremski, investigators also found it reasonable to believe Brady knew what was going on:.
“We nevertheless believe, based on the totality of the evidence, that it is more probable than not that Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.”
In addition, investigators found it unlikely that McNally and Jastremski would have tampered with the balls without Brady knowing:
“Based on our interviews and assessment of McNally and Jastremski, we also do not believe that they would personally and unilaterally engage in such conduct in the absence of Brady‟s awareness and consent.”
Brady has yet to comment on the report, but Patriots owner Robert Kraft released a defiant statement saying he was disappointed in the investigators’ conclusions.
The NFL has yet to decide on how the Patriots or those involved are punished. Suddenly, the biggest NFL story of the offseason is how hard the league will come down on Brady.
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