Deflating footballs for Tom Brady is a tough job.
The star quarterback is the unquestioned star in New England, but at least one Patriots employee dares to diss him. Still, workers think it's worth doing whatever makes Brady happy, especially if autographed footballs and sneakers are part of the reward.
An NFL investigation released Wednesday concluded Patriots employees likely deflated footballs used in the AFC Championship and that Brady was "at least generally aware" of the rules violations.
Here are just some of the things we learned from investigator Ted Wells' 243-page report:
TOM THE TASKMASTER: Brady is beloved among New England fans, but the Patriots workers involved in the case don't seem to feel the same way. Equipment assistant (John Jastremski) and part-time locker room attendant (Jim McNally) exchanged angry text messages after Brady apparently complained about the inflation level of game balls in October.
McNally: "Tom sucks...im going to make that next ball a f---in balloon." (Oct. 17, 2014).
McNally: "F--- tom....make sure the pump is attached to the needle.....f---in watermelons coming" (Oct. 23, 2014).
SWAG OVER CASH: McNally is a seasonal employee for the Patriots who worked home games in 2014. His request for sneakers and signed footballs from Brady isn't unusual. A person familiar with the inner structure of NFL teams told The Associated Press it's typical for part-time or game-day workers to request items they can sell because they wouldn't have to report them as tips. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because teams have different policies regarding the matter. An NFL spokesman said the league has no policy that prevents team employees from accepting autographs or other valuable items.
LAWYERED UP: Though Brady answered questions, he declined to turn over emails or text messages requested by investigators. He didn't have to because NFL investigators don't have subpoena power. Brady also had his agents and lawyers present for his interview, along with counsel for the Patriots.
"We offered to allow Brady's counsel to screen and control the production so that it would be limited strictly to responsive materials and would not involve our taking possession of Brady's telephone or other electronic devices," the report said. "Our inability to review contemporaneous communications and other documents in Brady's possession and control related to the matters under review potentially limited the discovery of relevant evidence and was not helpful to the investigation."
NOTHING NEW: Long before the AFC Championship and even before Spygate, the Patriots and McNally were warned about using "non-approved" game balls in 2004.
The incident involved Patriots ball boys relaying non-approved practice balls to a game official during a regular-season game. Former NFL Director of Game Operations Peter Hadhazy said then: "The Patriots have not provided a reasonable explanation for this incident." Hadhazy also warned the Patriots that disciplinary action could result if a similar incident occurred in the future because it could be interpreted as a competitive violation. Messages between McNally and Jastremski indicate their involvement in deflating footballs goes back at least to the 2013 season.
SKEPTICAL INSIDERS: Brady's agent, Don Yee, said the NFL was determined to blame the star quarterback for deflated footballs and the investigation omitted key facts and buried others. Yee questioned NFL-appointed investigations in general, saying they weren't independent because the law firms get millions in business from the NFL. "It is common knowledge in the legal industry that reports like this generally are written for the benefit of the purchaser," he said.
RULE CHANGES: The controversy surrounding this incident makes it likely the NFL will change the way footballs are handling before the game to avoid the possibility of tampering before games. Expect NFL officiating crews to carry the footballs onto the field starting next season.
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