The New England Patriots are pushing back — and hard — against the independent investigation of whether and how footballs used by the team in last season’s AFC Championship Game were deflated.
The team set up a website today — The Wells Report in Context — to rebut the report line by line.
The bulk of the annotations concentrate on whether science proves there was no shady business afoot. It also says the investigation provided out-of-context information, noting that a few of the balls used by the Indianapolis Colts also were slightly deflated, but not below league rules.
But the Patriots’ annotations — written by the team’s attorney — say the league used different gauges to measure the two teams’ balls.
One Colts football averaged below regulation when taking into account both gauges. As soon as that fourth Colts football was measured, League personnel stopped any further gauging of Colts footballs. Relying on the higher Logo gauge measurements of the Colts football, League officials decided not to add air to any of the Colts footballs.
Additional measurements using the same two gauges were made post-game. Post-game, each of the four Patriots footballs measured were well above the required level of 12.5 psi on both gauges (including one that had been overinflated to 13.65 on the Logo gauge).
Three of the four Colts footballs measured below 12.5 psi on the non-Logo gauge (a violation of League rules), one measured below 12.5 psi on both gauges (also a violation), and three Colts footballs measured above 12.5 on the Logo gauge.”
A team employee is alleged to have deflated the balls and in its investigation, the league claimed increased text messages between the employee and quarterback Tom Brady suggest a coverup was underway.
Not so, today’s rebuttal asserts.
First, the media frenzy over deflated footballs started the day after the AFC Championship Game. Mr. Brady is used to the limelight and to critics; Mr. Jastremski is not. Since Mr. Jastremski prepared the footballs, it was reasonable to expect that this media attention would focus on him.
It was also reasonable to expect that (as happened) Mr. Jastremski’s boss would question Mr. Jastremski to see what, if anything, he knew. Mr. Brady’s reaching out to Mr. Jastremski to see how he was holding up in these circumstances is not only understandable, but commendable.
It also rebutted the suggestion that another team employee secretly spirited the game footballs from the possession of referees.
As the report states (pg. 55), the sitting room was crowded with “NFL personnel, game officials and others gathered there to watch the conclusion of the NFC Championship Game on television.”
Mr. McNally had to navigate this crowd of officials to make it through the sitting room with two large bags of footballs on his shoulders. Mr. McNally, a physically big man, hoisted two large bags of footballs and lumbered past all these League officials and out the door of the Officials’ Locker Room.
As is clear from the report, no one objected; no one told him to stop; no one requested that he wait to be accompanied by a League official; no one told him that a League official had to carry the footballs to the field. After he walked past all of these League officials and out the door of the Officials’ Locker Room to the hallway, he then walked past James Daniel, an NFL official and one of the people who had been alerted to the Colts psi concerns pre-game (pg. 45).
Mr. Daniel, as seen on the security video, looked at Mr. McNally carrying the bags of footballs toward the field unaccompanied by any League or game official, and made no objection to Mr. McNally continuing unaccompanied to the field. In short, if officials lost track of the location of game footballs, it was not because Mr. McNally stealthily removed them.
For physics fans, the website also contains an extensive explanation of 2003 Nobel Prize winner Prof. Roderick MacKinnon, who disputed the NFL’s assertion that the balls in the game had lower air pressure than could be explained by the Ideal Gas Law.