NEW YORK -- An NFL investigation released Wednesday concluded New England Patriots employees likely deflated footballs used in the AFC Championship and that quarterback Tom Brady was probably "at least generally aware" of the rules violations.
The NFL began investigating after the Patriots defeated the Colts 45-7 on January 18. The Colts complained that several footballs were under-inflated and the NFL confirmed that 11 of the 12 footballs were under the limit. The investigation started as the Patriots were preparing for the Super Bowl - which they won two weeks later.
Footballs with less pressure can be easier to grip and catch. Some quarterbacks prefer footballs that have less air.
The NFL requires balls to be inflated between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch, and each team is responsible for the balls it uses on offense.
Brady said he prefers footballs inflated to 12.5 pounds per square inch. On many occasions, Brady said he never asked for balls to be deflated outside of the rules.
The NFL report said "it was more than probable than not" that Jim McNally, the officials' locker room attendant, and John Jastremski, an equipment assistant for the Patriots, were involved in "a deliberate effort to release air" from the footballs after they were examined by the referee.
The report includes text messages between McNally and Jastremski - sent in October and January - that imply Brady was requesting footballs deflated below 12.5 pounds per square inch. They described requests from McNally for shoes and signed footballs from Brady in exchange for deflating the balls.
The texts imply that Brady had previously been upset with the quality of the game balls.
"Remember to put a couple sweet pig skins ready for tom to sign," one said.
"Nice throw in some kicks and make it real special," another said.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league would consider what steps to take next.
"We will continue our efforts vigorously to protect the integrity of the game and promote fair play at all times," he said.
The 243-page report said league investigators found no evidence that coach Bill Belichick and team management knew of the practice. Owner Robert Kraft, who strongly defended his team and said the NFL would owe the Patriots an apology if the investigation turned up no culpable evidence, said he still doesn't believe the team did anything wrong.
"While I respect the independent process of the investigation, the time, effort and resources expended to reach this conclusion are incomprehensible to me,'" Kraft said.
But, he said the Patriots would accept the findings of the report "and take the appropriate actions based on those findings as well as any discipline levied by the league."
An investigator's report into "Deflategate" cited a series of texts between two New England Patriots employees as key evidence in the conclusion that the Patriots likely deflated footballs in the AFC title game - and that quarterback Tom Brady probably knew about it.
The texts were between Jim McNally, the officials' locker room assistant, and John Jastremski, an equipment assistant for the Patriots.
The texts were published in the 243-page report issued Wednesday.
The NFL report said while many of the exchanges were an attempt at humor, investigators believed the jokes were based on actual events. Attorneys for the team said that the exchanges referred to a friend, not Brady, but investigators rejected that explanation.
Here's a few examples of the conversations:
WHAT BRADY SAID TO THEM:
The texts suggest Brady mentioned to Jastremski that McNally must have "a lot of stress" trying to get the footballs "done."
McNally: "Tom sucks...im going to make that next ball a f---in balloon." (Oct. 17, 2014)
Jastremski: "Talked to him last night. He actually brought you up and said you must have a lot of stress trying to get them done..." (Oct. 17, 2014)
The two shared thoughts and jokes on how to overinflate the balls, and they had some choice words for Brady. They also said Brady was correct when he had complained that some of the footballs from the Oct. 16 game against the Jets were overinflated: Some had measured nearly 16 pounds per square inch, well above the 12.5-13.5 range the NFL requires.
McNally: "Make sure you blow up the ball to look like a rugby ball so tom can get used to it before Sunday" (Oct. 21, 2014)
McNally: "16 is nothing... wait till next Sunday" (Oct. 17, 2014)
McNally: "F--- tom....make sure the pump is attached to the needle.....f---in watermelons coming" (Oct. 23, 2014)
The report describes exchanges that indicate the two Patriots employees wanted sneakers and signed footballs in exchange for tampering with the balls for Brady.
McNally: "Better be surrounded by cash and newkicks....or its a rugby Sunday" (Oct. 24, 2014)
Jastremski: "Maybe u will have some nice size 11s in ur locker"
McNally: "Remember to put a couple sweet pig skins ready for tom to sign" (Jan. 7, 2015)
Jastremski: "U got it kid...big autograph day for you"
McNally: "Nice throw some kicks in and make it real special"
McNally: "The only thing deflating sun..is his passing rating" (Oct. 23, 2014).
WERE THEY READY TO RAT?
One text message from McNally referring to himself as the "deflator" suggests that he might contact the media.
"jimmy needs some kicks....lets make a deal.....come on help the deflator" (May 9, 2014)
"Chill buddy im just f---in with you ....im not going to espn........yet."
AFTER THE INVESTIGATION:
After the complaints about deflated footballs became public, Brady called Jastremski for the first time in more than six months. They had multiple conversations for a total of nearly an hour, then met in the quarterback room - the first time Jastremski had ever been invited there in his 20-year career. Brady then began texting Jastremski.
BRADY: "You good Jonny boy?"
"You doing good?"
JASTREMSKI: "Still nervous; so far so good though"
"FYI...Dave (Patriots head equipment manager Dave Schoenfeld) will be picking your brain later about it. He's not accusing me, or anyone...trying to get to bottom of it. He knows it's unrealistic you did it yourself..."