Patriots issue rebuttal to Wells report, say conclusions 'incomplete'

ByMike Reiss ESPN logo
Friday, May 15, 2015
ESPN

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Two days after attorney Ted Wells passionately defended his report that led to the NFL's punishment of the New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady, the club fired back by creating a website --Wellsreportcontext.com-- that directly challenges some of the findings.

The Patriots' point-by-point rebuttal, which is nearly 20,000 words, was written by attorney Daniel L. Goldberg, who represented the club and was present during all interviews of team personnel conducted at Gillette Stadium.

In creating the website, Goldberg wrote, "Our intention is to provide additional context for balance and consideration."

It said conclusions in the Wells report were "incomplete, incorrect and lack context."

"There is no evidence that Tom Brady preferred footballs that were lower than 12.5 [pounds per square inch] and no evidence anyone even thought that he did," it said.

The rebuttal stated that the Wells report dismissed "scientific explanations for the natural loss of psi" in the footballs by rejecting referee Walt Anderson's memory of which air gauge he used to measure them. The Patriots included a "scientific conclusion" by Nobel Prize winner Roderick MacKinnon that contested the report's findings.

MacKinnon is described as the "scientific co-founder" of Flex Pharma on the company's website and as Scientific Advisory Board co-chair for the company, which develops products to help stop muscle cramps and spasms. The Kraft Group, a company founded by Patriots owner Robert Kraft in 1998, is listed on Flex Pharma's website as one of the company's investors.

Wells, in a conference call with reporters Tuesday, cited text messages as a key factor in his findings. A text message in which officials locker room attendant Jim McNally referred to himself as "the deflator," and another message in which McNally wrote, "I'm not going to espn........yet" were viewed by Wells as smoking guns.

"No one can ignore the implications of that text message, and no one can see it as a joke," Wells said. "And nor is it circumstantial evidence. It is direct evidence and it is inculpatory."

In the Wellsreportcontext.com, the Patriots said McNally referred to himself as "the deflator" jokingly because he was attempting to lose weight. Specific to the "I'm not going to espn........yet" text message, the Patriots said it was in reference to equipment assistant John Jastremski potentially being reprimanded by his boss, equipment manager Dave Schoenfeld, for giving McNally a pair of team sneakers, which McNally said he would keep a secret.

"These inferences ignore the testimony given by both the author and the recipient of various ill-stated attempts at humor contained in texts," the rebuttal said. "No witness gave the texts the meaning that the report attributes to them. No independent evidence confirmed how the report interprets the texts. The report simply speculates that all the selected texts had to do with improper football deflation after the referee's inspection, although not a single text mentions any such thing."

The Patriots also explained a text message from Jastremski in which he wrote, "Can't wait to give you your needle this week :)" They said it was a running joke between Jastremski and McNally because McNally often would deliver the Patriots' gauge and pump to the officials locker room for pregame inspection, and then would be asked by officials for an additional needle. Thus, McNally would have to return to the Patriots locker room and ask for a needle from Jastremski.

"There is simply no basis to conclude, as the report does, that every reference to a needle refers to a needle to be used for the purpose of deflating footballs after the referee's inspection," the rebuttal said.

The Patriots also questioned how the Wells report could conclude that the 1 minute, 40 seconds McNally spent in the Gillette Stadium bathroom before the Colts game was used to deflate the game balls.

"The report does not address whether one minute and 40 is consistent with the time that it takes a gentleman to enter a bathroom, relieve himself, wash his hands, and leave," the team said. "In fact, it is."

McNally and Jastremski were indefinitely suspended by the Patriots on May 6, the league said earlier this week.

One factor the Wells report cited in determining that Brady was "at least generally aware" of "inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls" was increased communication between Brady and Jastremski after the AFC Championship Game.

In the Wellsreportcontext.com, the Patriots said one reason for the increased communication was Brady's concern for Jastremski, a behind-the-scenes employee thrust into a limelight to which he is not accustomed.

"Mr. Brady's reaching out to Mr. Jastremski to see how he was holding up in these circumstances is not only understandable, but commendable," the Pats wrote.

In addition, with the team preparing for the Super Bowl two weeks after the Colts game, the Patriots said Brady had reason to speak to Jastremski, as it was his first Super Bowl while being responsible for football preparation. Issues to discuss, according to the team, included: how footballs would be prepared (there were several different ways used for preparation during the season, sometimes dependent on weather); how many more than the required number for the game should be prepared; when footballs would be available for practice; and when they would be sent to Arizona for Super Bowl practices.

The Patriots pointed out that investigators could have inquired with a former team employee who had been responsible for preparing footballs leading into past Super Bowls, but did not.

"In short, increased Brady-Jastremski communications in the days following the AFC Championship Game do not make it more likely than not that there was any wrongdoing or knowledge of wrongdoing," the Patriots wrote. "They are totally consistent with complete innocence. It is only speculation to conclude otherwise. Nonetheless, it forms part of the report's stated rationale for its findings against Mr. Brady."

Kraft said after the Wells report was released May 6 that "fighting the league and extending the debate would prove to be futile."

But Kraft's tone changed after the NFL's ruling Monday in which it fined the club $1 million, took away a 2016 first-round draft pick and a 2017 fourth-round pick, and suspended Brady for the first four games of the 2015 regular season.

"Despite our conviction that there was no tampering with footballs, it was our intention to accept any discipline levied by the league," he said Monday. "Today's punishment, however, far exceeded any reasonable expectation. It was based completely on circumstantial rather than hard or conclusive evidence."

The NFL Players Association officially appealed Brady's suspension Thursday afternoon. The case will be heard by commissioner Roger Goodell.

Deflategate has been the talk of the NFL and its fans since the Wells report was released last Wednesday.

An ESPN/ABC News poll released earlier Thursday showed that fans, by nearly a 2-1 margin, support the league's sanctions against Brady and the Patriots, and more than half think the quarterback himself cheated.

Kraft, meanwhile, was offered support from at least one fellow NFL owner Thursday.

"I'm confident that Robert will work through this," Falcons owner Arthur Blank said. "Obviously, he's not happy about it. He shouldn't be happy, just like I was not happy about what happened to our own franchise. The league is not happy about having to be put in a position where they're dealing with fines, suspensions and things of that nature. It's painful for them as well. There's no joy in the league office when they've got to make those kinds of decisions."

In March, Atlanta was fined $350,000 and must forfeit a 2016 draft pick for piping crowd noise into the Georgia Dome during home games over the past two seasons.

ESPN.com Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure contributed to this report.

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