The Patriots escalated their high-stakes counterattack against the NFL and the Wells investigation of Tom Brady’s deflated footballs Thursday by launching a website to publish an exhaustive rebuttal portraying the inquiry’s findings as a Kafkaesque injustice.
The 20,000-word rebuttal includes a Nobel laureate’s rejection of the Wells Report’s scientific evidence and a stunning claim that team attendant Jim McNally referred to himself as “the deflator’’ because he was losing weight — not because he was removing air pressure from Brady’s footballs.
The website went up shortly before the NFL players’ union officially appealed Brady’s four-game suspension for allegedly having “at least a general awareness’’ of the scandal and failing to fully cooperate with investigators.
“The conclusions of the Wells Report are, at best, incomplete, incorrect, and lack context,’’ stated the rebuttal’s author, Daniel L. Goldberg, a Patriots lawyer.
Two days after chief investigator Ted Wells took the unusual step of publicly defending his integrity, the Patriots accused him of ignoring inconsistencies “in logic and evidence’’ and of assigning nefarious motives to texted “attempts at humor and exaggeration.’’ The team contended that he had essentially manipulated the evidence to show that Brady preferred underinflated footballs and that McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski probably cheated to satisfy Brady’s desires.
A spokeswoman for Wells said he had no comment on the rebuttal.
On their new website, wellsreportcontext.com, the Patriots acknowledged no wrongdoing by Brady, McNally, or Jastremski. Nor did they offer an explanation for why they indefinitely suspended McNally and Jastremski last week without pay, except to assert that Jastremski secretly gave McNally Patriots sneakers and gear without permission.
Goldberg’s rebuttal repeatedly characterized Wells’s interpretation of events and evidence as flawed or offered alternative explanations. One of Goldberg’s most jarring assertions was aimed at countering Wells’s interpretation of McNally describing himself as “the deflator.’’
To Wells, the statement was evidence of possible wrongdoing. To the Patriots, it was innocuous wordplay.
While Jastremski is thin and works out to bulk up, Goldberg stated, “Mr. McNally is a big fellow and had the opposite goal: to lose weight. ‘Deflate’ was a term they used to refer to losing weight.’’
Goldberg cited two texts from McNally to Jastremski to support his conclusion. In one, McNally wrote, “deflate and give somebody that jacket.’’
In the other, they were discussing women and a party (the Patriots redacted part of the exchange “out of respect to Mrs. Jastremski.’’). McNally, apparently referring to himself, texted Jastremski in part, “Jimmy needs some kicks . . . lets make a deal . . . come on help the deflator.’’
Several minutes later, after receiving no reply, McNally wrote, “Chill buddy im just [messing] with you . . . im not going to espn . . . yet.’’
Wells described the exchange as compelling evidence that McNally was threatening to disclose the alleged football deflation scheme to the media.
To the contrary, Goldberg wrote, McNally was mocking Jastremski’s concern that his boss would discover he had secretly been giving McNally sneakers and other Patriots property. It was “Mr. McNally’s way of saying, in substance: ‘Hey, don’t worry about whether giving me those sneakers will get you in trouble — I’ll never tell,’ ’’ Goldberg asserted.
In his voluminous rebuttal, Goldberg stated unequivocally that no evidence has surfaced of Brady saying he prefers his footballs deflated below the league’s minimum pressure standard of 12.5 pounds per square inch. Witness testimony appears to confirm that every time the topic arose, Brady made clear he wanted the footballs inflated to the lowest permissible level.
Goldberg also provides an alternative explanation for Brady engaging in six phone calls for nearly 55 minutes with Jastremski over three days, beginning at 7:26 the morning after news of the purported scandal broke in the hours after the AFC Championship game.
Wells depicted the purpose of the calls as damage control. Not so, according to Goldberg, who asserted Brady reached out to Jastremski because he apparently anticipated a “media frenzy’’ about the deflated balls and was concerned for a co-worker who lacked experience dealing with the media.
“Mr. Brady’s reaching out to Mr. Jastremski to see how he was holding up in these circumstances is not only understandable, but commendable,’’ Goldberg wrote.
He said the phone calls were “totally consistent with complete innocence.’’
Wells, in defending his report to the media Tuesday, described a text exchange between McNally and Jastremski that convinced him “in the bottom of my heart’’ that they were implicating Brady in the alleged deflation conspiracy.
McNally, unhappy that Brady had complained about his footballs being overinflated in a game against the New York Jets, texted to Jastremski: “Tom sucks . . . im going make that next ball a [expletive] balloon.’’
Jastremski replied, “Talked to him last night. He actually brought you up and said you must have a lot of stress trying to get them done.’’
Wells described the exchange as direct evidence that “two participants in the scheme’’ were helping Brady.
Wrong, according to Goldberg, who asserted the “Tom’’ in question was not Brady but a friend of Jastremski’s. He said the conversation involved “McNally’s stress relating to reselling family tickets’’ to Patriots games.
Goldberg said the Patriots made Jastremski’s friend, Tom, available for a phone interview with Wells’s team. But “the investigators, rather than take further steps to check out this information, simply chose to disbelieve input that did not square with their conclusions,’’ Goldberg wrote.
He also took issue with Wells’s complaint that the Patriots refused to make McNally available for a final interview with investigators. Wells said the interview was crucial because he had discovered McNally’s “deflator’’ texts after his first conversation with McNally and needed to confront him about them.
Wells has cited the refusal to make McNally available again as evidence of the Patriots’ failure to cooperate.
Goldberg countered that Wells received the “deflator’’ texts before his first interview with McNally but overlooked them. When Wells sought the second interview, Goldberg said, the Patriots offered alternatives to an in-person interview to provide the information Wells needed.
“There was no follow-up from investigators,’’ Goldberg wrote. “It now appears that the Patriots are being severely punished because the Wells investigative team apparently overlooked materials they had in their possession long before their interview with Mr. McNally.’’
Goldberg suggested Wells also ignored scientific evidence that atmospheric pressure may have accounted for Brady’s underinflated footballs when the Patriots played the Indianapolis Colts Jan. 18 in the AFC Championship game.
As part of a detailed analysis that raised questions not only about which gauges the officials used to measure the Patriots footballs but the league’s apparent lax attention to the inflation levels of the Colts’ balls, Goldberg cited the conclusions of Roderick MacKinnon, a 2003 Nobel Prize recipient in chemistry, that Wells’s scientific findings were “incorrect.’’
The new Patriots website initially stated MacKinnon offered them his expertise and had no personal relationship with the team.
Several hours later, after reports of a possible conflict of interest arose, the Patriots updated the site to say they are a passive investor in MacKinnon’s biotechnology company, Flex Pharma.
The team was fined $1 million and docked two draft picks — a first-rounder in 2016 and fourth-rounder in 2017.
Bob Hohler can be reached at email@example.com.