Yeah...the New England Patriots cheated.
A 243-page report by Ted Wells — the NFL-appointed attorney who investigated New England's Deflate Gate scandal — determined that the Patriots did deliberately deflate footballs during the AFC title game against the Indianapolis Colts in January and that Tom Brady was "at least generally aware" of it.
The NFL will rule on disciplining Brady and the Patriots organization with a possible punishment "days away."
"For the reasons described in this report, and after a comprehensive investigation, we have concluded that, in connection with the AFC Championship Game, it is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules," Wells' report stated, as obtained by ESPN.
"In particular, we have concluded that it is more probable than not that Jim McNally [the Officials Locker Room attendant for the Patriots] and John Jastremski [an equipment assistant for the Patriots] participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee," the report continued to state. "Based on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady [the quarterback for the Patriots] was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls."
It's believed that the Patriots deflated the footballs in New England's cold-weather conditions this past January to make it easier to grip, throw and catch. They wound up winning that AFC title game en route to winning the Super Bowl.
In between the AFC title game and Super Bowl, Brady vehemently denied any accusations of cheating, but text messages between McNally and Jastremski seem to imply that the star quarterback wanted the footballs deflated.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft naturally expressed disappointment upon learning of the report's findings.
"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 told ESPN. "While I respect the independent process of the investigation, the time, effort and resources expended to reach this conclusion are incomprehensible to me. Knowing that there is no real recourse available, fighting the league and extending this debate would prove to be futile. We understand and greatly respect the responsibility of being one of 32 in this league and, on that basis, we will accept the findings of the report and take the appropriate actions based on those findings as well as any discipline levied by the league."
Now, everyone awaits how the NFL will discipline Brady and the Patriots organization.
"As with other recent matters involving violations of competitive rules, Troy Vincent and his team will consider what steps to take in light of the report, both with respect to possible disciplinary action and to any changes in protocols that are necessary to avoid future incidents of this type," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement sent to ESPN. "At the same time, we will continue our efforts vigorously to protect the integrity of the game and promote fair play at all times."
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(Photo: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)