An agent for Tom Brady released a stern statement Thursday slamming the NFL-commissioned report on so-called “Deflate-gate,” which implicated the New England Patriots quarterback and two members of the team’s staff for deflating footballs in an alleged deliberate violation of league rules.
“The Wells report, with all due respect, is a significant and terrible disappointment,” Brady’s agent, Don Yee, said in a sternly-worded statement. “It’s omission of key facts and lines of inquiry suggest the investigators reached a conclusion first, and then determined so-called facts later.”
The 243-page report, the result of an investigation by attorney Ted Wells and released on Wednesday, concluded that two Patriots personnel likely played a direct role in intentionally taking air out of game balls ahead of the AFC Championship game in January, and that Brady was probably aware of the inappropriate activities taking place.
Yee points out, as many Patriots defenders have before, that league officials were at fault for not notifying the team prior to the championship game that there may have been something amiss with their game balls, and suggests that the NFL may have been working in collusion with the opposing Indianapolis Colts in attempting a “sting operation” against the soon-to-be Super Bowl champions.
“It is a sad day for the league as it has abdicated the resolution of football-specific issues to people who don’t understand the context or culture of the sport,” adds Yee.
Although the report lacks “smoking gun” evidence to prove that Brady authorized or played a role in deflating footballs, the report claims that he was likely “generally aware” that inappropriate conduct took place. The report also points out that while Brady did submit to an interview with investigators, he refused to turn over phone records and other electronic data they requested.
“Tom made himself available for nearly an entire day and patiently answered every question. It was clear to me the investigators had limited understanding of professional football. For reasons unknown, the Wells report omitted nearly all of Tom’s testimony, most of which was critical because it would have provided this report with the context that it lacks,” argues Yee.
Critics of Brady and the Patriots have argued that the public already heard his perspective on the controversy when he held a widely ridiculed press conference on the matter prior to the Super Bowl this year.
“I feel like I’ve always played within the rules and I would never do anything to break the rules,” said Brady on Jan 22. He also said “I have no knowledge of anything.” But the findings of the investigation suggest otherwise.
Perhaps the most explosive details in the report are private text messages between the two Patriots staffers who seem most likely to have deflated the footballs, allegedly at Brady’s behest. Jim McNally, a locker room attendant, and John Jastremski, an equipment assistant, have multiple exchanges where they allude to deflating footballs in accordance with Brady’s wishes.
“Tom is acting crazy about balls,” reads an incriminating Jastemski text. And in another conversation in which Brady’s complaints about the air pressure comes up again, McNally, who refers to himself as “the deflator,” jokes: “Tom sucks … I’m going make that next ball a f–kin balloon.” Most football experts agree that a slightly deflated football is easier to catch and grip.
For now, Patriots owner Robert Kraft seems to be sticking by his quarterback. In a statement released shortly after the report went public he said, “When I addressed the media at the Super Bowl on January 26 – over 14 weeks ago – I stated that I unconditionally believed that the New England Patriots had done nothing inappropriate in this process or in violation of the NFL rules and that I was disappointed in the way the league handled the initial investigation. That sentiment has not changed,”
As far as repercussions are concerned, the jury is still out. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has tasked Troy Vincent, the current executive vice president of football operations for the league, with determining any penalties the Patriots will face. “We will continue our efforts vigorously to protect the integrity of the game and promote fair play at all times,” Goodell said on Wednesday.
Brady himself is scheduled to appear at Salem State University in Massachusetts for a Q&A hosted by sportscaster Jim Gray. There is already intense speculation about whether the likely Hall of Famer will address the Wells report findings. His flamboyant teammate, Rob Gronkowski, has weighed in as only he would: When asked about the scandal, he simply flexed his muscles.