KRAVITZ: Wells Report leaves the Patriots feeling, well... deflated

Each team has an attendant responsible for game balls.
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Bob Kravitz

Sorry, Bob Kraft.

There will be no apology coming from the National Football League or anybody else, something he demanded at the Super Bowl should the league exonerate his club.

If anything, Kraft should be offering organizational apologies for a team that has now been found guilty of circumventing the rules twice in recent years.

How about an apology from Tom Brady, who lied through his perfect pearly whites before and during this process?

The Patriots cheated, and it's fair to assume they've been cheating – specifically, playing with deflated footballs – for a very long time. This is not a minor issue; we're talking here about the integrity of the game, about maintaining a level playing field. Nobody ever suggested the footballs played any role in the Patriots' 45-7 battering of the Colts, but if I'm, say, the Baltimore Ravens, I'm absolutely furious. If I'm any of those teams the Patriots beat over the years on their way to all those Super Bowls, I'm furious. And if I'm Roger Goodell, who was directly challenged by Kraft but properly hired independent investigators to pursue this case, I'm furious, too.

Bottom line, his league's Super Bowl champions have a Scarlet Letter, another asterisk to add to their growing collection. This couples up with SpyGate, another misdeed that cost Bill Belichick a half-million dollars, and it makes it more likely that the league will bring the hammer on a recidivist organization.

“Based on evidence developed in connection with the investigation and summarized in this Report, we have concluded that it is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the NFL Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate attempt to circumvent those rules," the Wells investigation read.

The report added there was a “deliberate effort to release air from the Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee [Walt Anderson].'' The deed was done by Patriots' employee Jim McNally, who in a text message referred to himself as “the deflator.''

I don't see the league going soft on the Patriots, not after Troy Vincent, the discipline czar, came down heavy on the Browns for Textgate and the Falcons for Noisegate. Brady should be suspended for a few games, at the very least, for his role in this scheme. Take your time and read the Wells Report – I blew off the 100-page treatise on scientific testing – and you can't come to any other conclusion: Brady was central to the tampering of those footballs. The All-American boy isn't quite so clean, after all.

"During his interview, Brady denied any knowledge of or involvement in any efforts to deflate game balls...'' the report read. “He claimed that prior to the events surrounding the AFC Championship Game, he did not know McNally's name... We found these claims not plausible and contradicted by other evidence."

It added, "It's more probable than not that Tom Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of [Patriots' employees] involving the release of air from Patriots' game balls.''

Science did not explain the deflation, as we suspected it would not. But, then, did anybody outside the New England media and Patriots' fans really buy Bill Belichick's explanations about Ideal Gas Law and the like? He's a football coach, not a physics expert. But for lots of Patriots fans, and for some of the Patriots' toadies in the local media, that explanation fully sufficed. End of story. Drop the mic. Move on.

I almost feel badly for Kraft and Belichick. Truly, I do. For one thing, both men were fully exonerated in the findings. But Kraft was the one who gave an emotional statement the week of the Super Bowl, insisting “my guys,'' Belichick and Brady, have never lied to him. Clearly, though, Brady was not straight with Kraft, which becomes brazenly apparent in the 243-page Wells Report.

The investigation makes it clear: While it's impossible to prove that Brady was central to this scheme, the preponderance of evidence points to his involvement. This isn't a legal case. Preponderance of evidence is enough.

“…we believe it is unlikely that an equipment assistant and locker room attendant would deflate game balls without Brady's knowledge and approval,'' the report read.

I'll be honest: This whole ugly thing has been disappointing, and not simply because the best team in the league insists on circumventing the rules any way they possibly can. For one thing, they don't need to. They'd likely have those four Super Bowl with or without the cheating. Second, it's a black eye for the NFL, whose Super Bowl winner now has to deal with another asterisk beside their victory.

I have to say that while I completely understand and respect that fans support their team win, lose, tie or cheat, the social media rudeness and relentlessness was eye-opening. Kraft should thank his fans; when his team is threatened, they bring it. Boy, do they bring it. Even now, after the report, I'm still getting hate tweets, like my initial report on the existence of an investigation brought the franchise down. They reached out to my wife. They reached out to my two daughters. It was ugly and yes, at times, quite discomfiting.

I expect a lack of professionalism from fanboi bloggers who dubiously claimed knowledge of the identity of my source, who came after me in the most personal manner imaginable.

I expect that from sports-talk radio, which can often be designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator. One sports talk clown, Scott Zolak, the former Patriots backup quarterback, trolled me constantly on Twitter, which made me wonder if he was still on the team's payroll. (Maybe he is; I have no idea. All I know is, I haven't heard word one from him in recent hours).

Here's what disappoints me most, though: The media. Specifically the New England media, the mainstream media. While some of them were wholly professional – the Globe's Ben Volin comes immediately to mind – I was amazed at the way many of these toadies refused to consider the remote possibility that there was something to my initial report, despite the fact the Patriots have run afoul of the rules once before. They dismissed it like a minor nuisance.

The people who disappointed me most were the folks at The Globe's website, Boston.com. They are renowned pom-pom wearers, so it wasn't a surprise. But I was struck at the enthusiasm they displayed while carrying the Patriots' water. It shocks me that a great newspaper like the Boston Globe would employ such rank amateurs and cheerleaders. Sad.

The longer the Wells investigation continued, the more you sensed they had something on the New England Patriots. The more they interviewed Patriots coaches, players and employees, the more you suspected there was something amiss. Let's face it: It the balls had been properly inflated, or if atmospherics fully explained the ball deflation, wouldn't this investigation have concluded just two or three weeks after WTHR.com first broke the story?

In the end, the Colts were right to bring this to the league's attention, the league was right to pursue it, and the Patriots, well, they are revealed again as the best football organization of the modern day. And hopeless, hapless cheats.