For over 100 days — or over 14 weeks, as he put it — Patriots owner Robert Kraft has staunchly stood by his coach and star player in regards to L’Affaire Deflategate, and he wasn’t about to back down on Wednesday.
Shortly after the long-anticipated Wells Report was sent to his organization and mere minutes after it was released online to the public, the Patriots’ media relations department sent a statement attributed to Kraft via e-mail.
“When I addressed the media at the Super Bowl on January 26 — over 14 weeks ago — I state 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,” Kraft’s statement began. “That sentiment has not changed.”
Indeed, as Kraft asserted at the NFL meetings in March, the extensive investigation did not turn up a true “smoking gun,” but rather a significant amount of circumstantial evidence.
Kraft’s words thus far are the only reaction from a member of the Patriots; there were no statements from Bill Belichick — who is believed to have no knowledge of wrongdoing, according to the report — or from Brady, of whom the report says, “it is more probable than not” that he was at least generally aware of probable wrongdoing by equipment assistant John Jastremski and game-day attendant Jim McNally.
But the owner did not mince words, and it’s clear he is unhappy — but in the end, Kraft said the Patriots accept the findings of the report and will accept whatever discipline is levied by the NFL.
Kraft also noted what he feels are inconsistencies and falsehoods contained in the report:
■ “I was convinced that Ted Wells’ investigation would find the same factual evidence supported by both scientific formula and independent research as we did and would ultimately exonerate the Patriots,” Kraft said. “Based on the explanations I have heard and the studies that have been done, I don’t know how the science of atmospheric conditions can be refuted or how conclusions to the contrary can be drawn without some definitive evidence.”
During the investigation, a research firm called Exponent, as well as a Princeton University physics professor, were employed to help look into why the Patriots’ game footballs had a reduction in PSI. The balls were gauged pregame in the warmth of the officials’ locker room; the game-time temperature for the AFC title game was 51 degrees with humidity at 71 percent, though it did get cooler as the game went on.
In a fairly stunning press conference before the Patriots left for Phoenix and Super Bowl XLIX, Belichick said the Patriots took time away from their game preparation to study things such as temperature changes and the effect it could have on footballs, and the team believed the reduction in PSI was not unnatural.
Wells’ scientific consultants disagreed. “The reduction in pressure of the Patriots’ game balls cannot be explained completely by basic scientific principles, such as the Ideal Gas Law, based on the circumstances and conditions likely to have been present on the day of the AFC Championship game,” the report said.
■ Kraft claimed three of the four Colts’ footballs measured at halftime were below the league-mandated minimum of 12.5 PSI. Eleven Patriots footballs and four Colts footballs were measured by two game officials at halftime, using two different gauges; the gauge used by Clete Blakeman showed lower readings for all 11 of the Patriots’ balls than the gauge used by Dryol Prioleau.
The measurements credited to Prioleau for the Colts’ balls are lower than Blakeman’s, and three of the four are below the 12.5 PSI standard.
“As far as we are aware, there is no comparable data available from any other game because, in the history of the NFL, psi level of footballs have never been measured at halftime, in any climate,” Kraft said. “If they had been, based on what we now know, it is safe to assume every cold-weather game was played with under inflated footballs. As compelling a case as the Wells Report may try to make, I am going to rely on factual evidence of numerous scientists and engineers rather than inferences from circumstantial evidence.”
‘I unconditionally believed that the Patriots had done nothing inappropriate . . . That sentiment has not changed.’
■ Kraft also takes umbrage with the report’s assertion that the Patriots failed to make McNally available for a follow-up interview, and that the team “refused even to inform McNally of our request. We believe the failure by the Patriots and its counsel to produce McNally for the requested follow-up interview violated the club’s obligations to cooperate with the investigation under the Policy on Integrity of the Game & Enforcement of League Rules,” the Wells Report said.
Kraft insists that McNally was made available multiple times.
“Given our level of cooperation throughout the process, I was offended by the comments made in the Wells Report in reference to not making an individual available for a follow-up interview,” Kraft said. “What the report fails to mention is that he had already been interviewed four times and we felt the fifth request for access was excessive for a part-time game day employee who has a full-time job with another employer.”
There is no word yet as to if and when possible punishment will be handed out. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement Wednesday that league vice president Troy Vincent and his team are in charge of deciding discipline.