NEW YORK, NY – New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was probably “at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities” of a locker room attendant and an equipment assistant in the controversy known as “Deflategate,” according to an NFL-commissioned report released Wednesday.
The report found that “it is more probable than not” that the locker room attendant and equipment assistant “participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee” in violation of NFL rules at January’s AFC title game, which the Patriots won.
“Based on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady … was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities … involving the release of air from Patriots game balls,” wrote Ted Wells, the attorney who led the investigation.
The report said there was no evidence that any other Patriots player or staffer was involved, adding specifically that investigators do not believe coach Bill Belichik, any other coach or the team’s ownership took part in or knew of any wrongdoing.
The Patriots beat the Colts 45-7 in the January 18 AFC title game and went on to win the Super Bowl. Controversy swirled after the Colts raised concerns that the footballs used solely by the Patriots’ offense in the first half were underinflated. Brady completed 23 of 35 passes in the AFC championship game. Three passes were for touchdowns and one was intercepted.
The report said that after the interception a Colts equipment staff member measured the the air pressure of the ball, one of the Patriots’ game balls, and told a game official and NFL personnel that the ball was below the 12.5 pounds per square inch minimum measurement.
At halftime, the alternate game officials measured the pressure in 11 of the Patriots’ 12 game balls and four provided by the Colts. The two sets of measurements differed by about fourth-tenths of one pound, but none of the 11 balls met the minimum standard.
The Patriots have said environmental factors like cold temperatures led to the loss of pressure in the balls. The temperature at the stadium, in Foxborough, Massachusetts, when the game began was around 50 degrees.
The report also found that three of the four Colts’ balls tested were underinflated when measured by one alternate official. The balls were 12.5 PSI or above when tested by the other official.
The assumption underlying the controversy is that intentionally deflating the footballs below NFL standards would be cheating to favor the quarterback. A ball with lower inflation is said by some to be easier to grip and may give the passer a competitive advantage.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft was defiant in response to Wednesday’s report, saying he was disappointed in the findings and still believed the team did nothing to violate NFL rules.
Kraft criticized what he called “inferences from circumstantial evidence,” adding that “the time, effort and resources expended to reach this conclusion are incomprehensible to me.”
“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,” Kraft said.
Brady denied knowledge of tampering with footballs during his interview with investigators, according to the report. He answered questions voluntarily, but declined to make available communications, including texts and emails, the report said.
Brady made the same denial to reporters on January 22, days after the game.
“I didn’t alter the ball in any way. I have no knowledge of wrongdoing,” Brady said.