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Deflategate

Full transcript of Ted Wells’s conference call on Deflategate report

Here is the full transcript of the conference call NFL investigator Ted Wells held Tuesday with reporters to discuss his report to the league on Deflategate.

Wells: I am sitting here with Lorin Reisner, who is my law partner who worked on the investigation with me and Lorin will also be responding to questions as needed.

I would like to start out by responding to criticisms by Mr. Brady’s agent, Don Yee, about my independence and his suggestions that the conclusions of the report were somehow influenced by persons in the league office who wanted to find wrongdoing by the Patriots and Mr. Brady. The conclusions in the report represent the independent opinions of me personally and my team. And those conclusions were not influenced in any way, shape, or form by anyone at the league office. We’ve made a fair and reasonable review of the evidence and we reached conclusions based on the preponderance of the evidence standard, which I was required to apply based on the league’s rules. To the extent Mr. Yee is suggesting that I have some type of conflict because I in my law firm do other work for the NFL, I want to be clear that it is well known that I work for the NFL and the Miami Dolphins investigation involving Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito and also that my law firm is involved in representing the NFL in the concussion cases. Those facts were all publicly known at the time I was appointed. When I was appointed to be the independent investigator, no one at the Patriots or in Mr. Brady’s camp raised any issue about my independence or my integrity to judge the evidence impartially and fairly. In fact Mr. Kraft, to my recollection, publicly said he welcomed my appointment. I think it is wrong to criticize my independence just because you disagree with my findings. I will now take any questions that you wish me to respond to.

What prompted you to want to address the report publicly, why did you feel like it was important or necessary in this case to talk about your findings after the report came out?

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Wells: That is a good question. As you know when I did the Dolphins report I did not talk to the press. When I did the investigation of Billy Hunter for the NFL — for the NBA players association, I did not talk to the press. When I did the investigation of Bernie Fine and the Syracuse basketball team, I did not talk to the press. But this is the first time that after I’ve issued my report that I find somebody is questioning my independence and in some way suggesting that I was influenced by the league’s office and I think that is wrong and that is what emoted me to speak today and I think once I’m on the call and responding to the independence question I think it’s right for me to respond to what other questions you have. But for those personal attacks I will be candid with you, I would not have responded. I think those attacks are out of bounds and unfair and just plain wrong.

You mentioned the preponderance of the evidence standard and one of the things that’s been criticized by some is the wording or the very careful wordings, “more probable than not that the Patriots deliberately violated the rules”, “more probable than not that Brady was at least generally aware.” Are you able to address maybe in more plain and direct language what your level of certainty based on your evidence and interpretation of it that the Patriots willfully violated the rules and that Brady knew what was going on in those actions?

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Wells: If I were sitting on a jury, and the judge had charged the jury that it should apply the preponderance of the evidence standard, I would have checked the box that said proven. I believe the conclusions have been proven by the preponderance of the evidence standard. I used the words “more probable than not” because that is what is in the rules because I thought it was appropriate when people read my report to always make sure that they understood the burden of proof that I was following. I did not want someone to read the report if I just said proven and think perhaps I used a beyond a reasonable doubt standard. I think that would have been misleading. So I was very careful to draft in the report just what the appropriate standard of proof was. And that is far different than probable cause, which some reporters have reported. The preponderance of the evidence standard is the commonly used standard in most civil litigation.

I’m curious about the use of footnote 25, which veers off seemingly to address the notion of a sting and to dispel that because in an unbiased and objective report, I’m not sure why that would enter into it. I just want your explanation because that seemed to be something that the NFL would have a great interest in dispelling and it seems as if almost to an outsider perhaps, you’re doing the NFL’s bidding and refuting that notion.

Wells: No, when I respond to that question I’m doing the Patriots’ bidding. The Patriots were all over me from day one about why the NFL did not warn them of the complaint and alleging it was a sting operation. That came from the Patriots to me and I responded to it. I investigated that issue, the Patriots asked me to investigate that issue, and I did not find that there was a sting. What the facts showed was just the opposite. When the Colts made the complaint, no one at the league office took the complaint seriously. They flipped the complaint via email to the operations people so they knew about it, they told the refs. Walt Anderson thought it was just a normal complaint. You get these types of things all the time. Nobody paid that much attention to it. There was no sting operation and I addressed it because the Patriots urged me to look at that issue and I did. Now I want to say this, there’s a policy question one can ask, whether you tell another team about a complaint or not, that’s not a sting operation. That’s a discretionary policy issue and that doesn’t have anything to do with my report. But there was no sting and that issue was addressed because the Patriots raised it.

As you mentioned in the report, the Patriots frequently talked about the objectivity of the people doing the investigation, including the game operations folks. It doesn’t seem the report ever looks inward to see whether or not there were axes to grind or preconceived notions of guilt from those who were doing some of the investigating at the league level.

Wells: That’s not accurate. I did look at that, I was sensitive to that because the Patriots again, the Patriots raised that issue with me. They raised the issue whether certain people in the league might have had an ax to grind with the Patriots. So what I did was keep a sharp eye for any evidence that some way the decision to check the balls at halftime or how the measurements were done at halftime might have been affected by some type of bias. I looked at that and I looked at it because the Patriots urged me to look at it and I did. And I did not find that there was any type of bias and I addressed that at page 21 but I addressed it again because the Patriots urged me to look at that.

I’m curious when you guys do investigations like this are you billing by the hour or is it a flat rate?

Wells: I bill by the hour. All cases.

Any chance you could say what the hours were for this or how much was finally charged for the whole report?

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Wells: I dont know off the top of my head but there’s no question its millions of dollars.

Any chance you could go a little more specific than that?

Moderator: Not necessary. Next question.

I know the Patriots promised their full cooperation with this investigation. Did you find that to be the case? How difficult were the Patriots and the related parties to you during this investigation?

Wells: The Patriots provided me, in my opinion, with substantial cooperation except in one critical and crucial area. I wanted to do a second interview of Jim McNally. Jim McNally was the second Patriots person I interviewed. I wanted, after I had interviewed others, including Tom Brady, to do a second interview of McNally to put certain questions to him and I had also discovered after the first interview important text messages where Jim McNally not only calls himself the deflator but says he has not gone to ESPN, dot dot dot, yet. Which is akin, as far I am concerned to saying I have not gone to the media yet to report what I’m doing. And I had not found that text during the first interview, at the time of the first interview. I wanted to confront him with that. I asked for a second interview. I said I would go to New Hampshire, I would interview him in the morning, afternoon, night, I didn’t care. I would make myself available whenever he was free and not only did they say I couldn’t interview him, they said they would not even tell him about my request for an interview. So on that particular point, which was critical to this investigation, they did not cooperate and the report sets that out.

Now you said this was the second interview, the Patriots gave said that would have been the fifth interview with McNally. Can you clear that up please?

Wells: I am happy to respond to that. On before I was appointed, NFL security people talked to McNally on three occasions. They talked to him on the night of the game for approximately 40 minutes. They talked to him the next morning, by telephone, for about 20 minutes. They talked to him in person, I believe the next day, for about 30 minutes. Those are the three interviews. The Patriots urged me, when I got to the case, to start fresh. Not to pay any attention to what NFL security had done. In fact they thought the people at NFL security were biased. They applauded when I said I’m starting fresh and for them later on to say I could not even have a second interview of the most important person in the case was just a lack of cooperation.

What about Tom Brady’s lack of cooperation? Did you view Tom Brady as not cooperating fully?

Wells: Mr. Brady, the report sets forth, he came to the interview, he answered every question I put to him. He did not refuse to answer any questions. In terms of the back and forth between Mr. Brady and my team, he was totally cooperative. At the same time, he refused to permit us to review electronic data from his telephone or other instruments. Most of the key evidence, as in most cases, come from people’s cell phones and he refused to let us review the phone and I want to be crystal clear. I told Mr. Brady and his agent I did not, I was willing not to take possession of the phone. I said I don’t want to see any private information, I said you keep the phone. You the agent, Mr. Yee, you can look at the phone. You give me documents that are responsive and I will take your word that you have given me what’s responsive. And they still refused.

Sometimes intelligence agencies use the word chatter when they’re describing back and forth conversations that are taking place. Do you sense that was what was taking in the conversations between Tom Brady and the two equipment managers? How significant was that in your belief that Mr. Brady had a general knowledge of what was going on? And secondly are you personally insulted by some of the criticism that you are getting, not from maybe fans, but from the Brady camp, Mr. Yee, Robert Kraft?

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Wells: Look, the bottom line, Mr. Yee is Mr. Brady’s agent, and he’s trying to do, I assume his job. Let’s put it like this, I totally reject any suggestion that I was not independent or the report in some way was slanted to reach a particular result. So I reject all of that. In terms of Mr. Brady’s knowledge, as I set forth in the report, one of the text messages between McNally and Jastremski read explicitly, “Tom sucks, I’m going to make that next ball a [expletive] balloon,” that’s what McNally says and Jastremski replies, “Talked to him last night.” The him, I conclude, is Brady. So talked to Brady last night. “He actually brought you up.” The he, I conclude, is Brady. “He brought you up and said you must have a lot of stress trying to get them done.” So I view that statement as Jastremski saying that Tom Brady brought up McNally and said McNally must have a lot of stress trying to get them done and Jastremski replies, “I told him it was.” So that is not circumstantial evidence. That is two of the participants in the scheme discussing what has taken place and in that particular text Jastremski directly says that Tom Brady brought you, brought up McNally and says you must have a lot of stress. And I interpret that and I believe that to the bottom of my heart that refers to the fact that there must be stress in getting the balls done.

Does the lack of cooperation from Brady to turn over the texts, the emails and then the lack of cooperation from the Patriots to produce McNally for a follow up, what kind of holes can that create in your report?

Wells: I don’t think it undermines in any way the conclusions of the report. I do believe that if I had had access to Brady’s electronic messages and if I had received all of the messages that it might have yielded additional insights into what happened and I think that would have been good for everybody regardless of what it showed. and I think it’s disappointing that they would say on one hand they are cooperating and yet refuse to give me access to the electronic data. I mean as I said a few minutes ago, most of the evidence in a huge number of cases today is based on a review of electronic data, be it text messages, emails, what have you. That’s just how our society has evolved. So the notion that you are going to say you’re cooperating but I won’t let you look at perhaps the most fruitful area of evidence I think is inconsistent.

You mentioned the other reports, you mentioned the Dolphins report, the Bernie Fine report, the Billy Hunter report, is it rare in your experience that you would get that lack of cooperation from someone you were looking into?

Wells: Yes. All those reports can be accessed and I’m not sure in any of those reports and I could be wrong because they’re lengthy and some of them are years ago, but I don’t recall saying that anybody failed to cooperate.

One correction, I think in the Hunter report, I did say Mr. Joe Lombardo refused to cooperate and as some of you know he was later convicted of fraud against the NBA.

There’s some question as to which gauge was used by Walt Anderson before the game, which one was used at halftime. I’m trying to follow the logic of you how came to understand or believe that he used the one that gave the lower readings before the game, because if the other one was used, there’s some question as the readings being within what would be explained by the ideal gas law. Can you just take us through how you came to that conclusion?

Wells: Sure, sure. That’s simple, it’s in the report. I’m going to toss that to Lorin Reisner to respond to that question.

Reisner: Sure, let me just start by saying the question of which gauge was used by Walt Anderson to test the pressure of the Patriots and Colts balls before the game, it just doesn’t affect any of the ultimate conclusions of the scientific consultants. The differences in pressure drops between the balls of the two teams was found by them to be statistically significant, regardless of the gauges used to test the balls and to test them at halftime and Exponent addressed multiple gauge scenarios in evaluating the statistical significance. It’s in their report at pages five through 12 and their statistical model accounted for the possibility of either gauge being used prior to the game and that’s in their report at appendix A and we set forth in our report at page 10 that according to Exponent, regardless, regardless of the assumptions made with respect to the gauges used pregame and at halftime, the measurements recorded for the Patriots game balls at halftime cannot be entirely explained by the ideal gas law when applied to the most likely game conditions and circumstances and Exponent also concluded that the difference in magnitude and reduction of air pressure between the Patriots and Colts footballs based on halftime measurements was statistically significant and Dr. Marlow, our expert from Princeton, entirely agreed with Exponent’s conclusions. when you look at the report, Exponent controlled for any uncertainty as to which gauge was used. They conduct their transient experiments and game day simulations by testing two separate scenarios, one assuming the non-logo gauge was used, and one assuming the logo gauge was used. And that’s what they report at pages 47 to 55, 57 to 61, and in their executive summary. The conclusion that Walt Anderson was most likely using the non-logo gauge was based on a variety of factors including thousands of tests by Exponent that showed that the non-logo gauge read a lower and the logo gauge read anywhere from 3.5 to 4 PSI higher and the reports by both the Patriots that they set their balls at around 12.5 and the Colts set their balls around 13 and Walt Anderson memory that the balls were set when he looked at them pregame that the target for the Patriots was 12.5 and the target for the Colts was 13. That is most consistent with him using the non-logo gauge pregame and that was an important part of our analysis. But as I said, I said at the beginning, it doesn’t matter because regardless of which gauges were used the scientific consultants addressed all of the permutations in their analysis.

What role, if any, did Jeff Pash play in the investigation and what input, if any, did he have in the report?

Wells: The only role Jeff Pash had was as I’ll call a facilitator in terms of process issues. If I needed to get access to somebody, I would call Pash. Things of that nature. Jeff Pash did not participate in any witness interviews, he did not participate in the evaluation of any evidence or our deliberations within our team. I will tell you when that press release was issued, and I saw it, I didn’t know about it that statement was going to be in there in advance and I called Jeff and asked to clarify what was meant by that and he confirmed that he was there to help in terms of process and we agreed up front and I made it clear, this is my investigation and I’m going to run it the same way I did the Dolphins investigation and I did.

Did the investigators look into what was used to fill the pumps with, because I had emails from readers if a compression device was used rather than a hand pump that could pump hot air into it which would lead the balls to deflate much more than a hand-pumped football would deflate. And secondly nowhere in the report, in fact the report says commissioner Goodell was not interviewed and I was wondering if he was brought up to speed on the Colts’ alert to the league on the Saturday before the game whether the Patriots might be using underinflated balls, if he was aware of the that before the game.

Wells: I did not interview commissioner Goodell. It was my understanding that he was not brought into the loop regarding the complaint and what the evidence showed and I talked to Mr. Kensil, Mr. Riveron, I talked to all of the people that were in that loop, and including the referee Walt Anderson, and the truth of the matter is no one took the complaint that seriously. The complaint was not supported by any evidence and although they passed it on to the referees, the referees did not view it as some red, some fire alarm or something. Nobody took it that seriously and that’s why I come out and say this was not a sting operation, it was in fact just the opposite. They gave the Patriots the benefit of the doubt, they did not overreact.

Reisner on the inflation: The scientific consultants considered all of those issues and the reality is that most of the air in the ball is originally pumped in by Wilson and it’s only a very marginal amount of air in the ball that gets added subsequently.

In the statement that Don Yee made, he said Brady’s testimony was not used in the Wells report, can you speak to that and why his statement wasn’t used and whether or not that affected the report?

Wells: Look I totally disagree with Don Yee’s statement that I did not describe key aspects in Mr. Brady’s interview in the report. I do. Now Mr. Yee has suggested in some way I left out important information and Mr. Yee is what I’ve read in the papers says, he was there and he has copius notes. Let me be clear, I have no objection for Mr. Yee to give to the media his notes. There’s nothing, I guarantee you in those notes, that would have made any difference to my decision. So he should publish the notes and stop acting like there’s some secret in the notes. He should publish them.

Wells, asked if he wanted to add anything: I would like to say one thing. In my mind, the NFL, based on my view of the world, certainly wasn’t hoping that I would come back with a report that would that find that something happened wrong with the Patriots or Tom Brady. They wanted me to get to the bottom of the facts and all of this discussion someway that people at the league office wanted to put some type of hit on the most popular, iconic player in the league, the real face of the league, it just doesn’t make any sense. That’s really a ridiculous allegation. What drove the decision in this report was one thing: it was the evidence. and I could not ethically ignore the import and relevancy of those text messages and the other evidence. I mean the notion that McNally is referring to himself as the “deflator” before the season starts and threatening that he has not gone to ESPN yet, no one can ignore the implications of that text message and no one can see it as a joke nor is it circumstantial evidence. It is direct evidence and it is inculpatory.