Ted Wells has determined that it is “more probable than not” that New England Patriots personnel deliberately deflated footballs this past January before the AFC Championship Game – a 45-7 Patriots win – and that Tom Brady was likely aware of it.
In other words, Wells believes that the Patriots cheated.
Not exactly a great look for the defending Super Bowl champions.
“Well, I think the NFL has got a lot to sort through here,” CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “Two-hundred forty-three pages, a lot of anecdotal evidence, a lot of circumstantial evidence – I don’t know that they have a smoking gun. I don’t know that you were going to get a smoking gun short of somebody recording a conversation or actually seeing someone deflate a football and having Tom Brady stand next to them saying, ‘Oh, no, that’s not enough.’ You weren’t going to get that.
“So now it’s in the hands of Troy Vincent and the football operations department and ultimately Roger Goodell,” La Canfora continued. “We’ve seen people get suspended, we’ve seen teams lose draft picks, we’ve seen the team and individuals get fined in recent years for various infractions or alleged infractions, and this will be an interesting case.”
Robert Kraft, meanwhile, is not backing down from his original stance that his franchise is innocent.
“Robert Kraft’s a very powerful owner,” La Canfora said. “He put out a statement today that was just about as strong as the remarks he made the Monday of Super Bowl week, when he really kind of put the NFL on notice for its investigation, so you’ve got a lot of interesting dynamics here. Tom Brady, one of the faces of the NFL – not just now, but of all-time – it’s quite a soap opera, isn’t it? I’m sure there’s going to be some degree of discipline and other teams are hoping it’s severe. Everybody hates on the Patriots, at least in part because they win all the time, right? So there will be plenty of teams rooting for a long suspension and punishment, and we’ll just have to wait and see what the NFL comes up with.”
All that said, Scott Ferrall can’t help but roll his eyes at the investigation just a bit. After 103 days and 243 pages, Ted Wells concluded that it was “more probable than not” that the Patriots tried to break the rules.
So basically, Wells thinks the Patriots cheated but doesn’t know for sure?
“Well, yeah, and technically that could be the standard that’s applied here,” La Canfora said. “We’re not in a court of law. This isn’t a trial. It’s not a ciivl suit. It’s basically an independent investigation for an organization to try to determine the likelihood that Tom Brady at the very least knew about this, was aware of it and maybe to some degree was the driving force in it. Now, can they unequivocally pin all that down? It does not appear so. But certainly Ted Wells tried to lay out the best case he can as to the communication between these parties and what it likely means.
“But if you go through the NFL by-laws, if you look at some of their past investigations, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that that term is used as many times as it is throughout these 243 pages,” La Canfora continued. “I think that’s a signal to the NFL – at least from his point of view – saying, ‘I met your standard, I met your standard.’ Of course, he’s the one doing the investigation. So not that he’s trying to necessarily find wrongdoing, but if he believes there’s wrongdoing, he’s going to put his stamp on it.
“And certainly Ted Wells has done that with this report. He takes some shots that the Patriots for not providing people for as many interviews as he would have liked. He takes some shots at Tom Brady for not turning over everything they asked to see. But he doesn’t have subpoena power, and again, this is not a court of law.
“But you’re right. To your larger point, this isn’t like he’s coming out and saying, ‘We have absolute, authoritative proof that this is why it happened and this is when it started, and this person was behind it and here’s exactly how they do it and here’s how long they’ve been doing it.’ We don’t have that.”
We also don’t definitively know how much the balls were deflated.
“If we’re talking about three-quarters of one PSI or one PSI, that’s not nearly as noticeable as what some were reporting initially, which was that these balls were 25 to 30 percent more deflated than the norm,” La Canfora said. “That’s just not the case.”