Deflate-gate: A report finds Tom Brady and the New England Patriots 'probably' deflated balls
An independent report has revealed New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was "at least generally aware" that under-inflated balls were used during an NFL play-off game earlier this year.
The NFL is investigating reports that the Patriots, who went on to win the Super Bowl, purposefully sabotaged the balls during the first half of their AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts in January.
The Wells Report has concluded that two backroom members of the Patriots were "more probable than not" culpable of releasing air from the balls.
The report, which was submitted to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the Patriots on Wednesday, also accused Brady of knowing what that pair were doing.
"We have concluded that it is more probable than not that Jim McNally (the Officials Locker Room attendant for the Patriots) and John Jastremski (an equipment assistant for the Patriots) participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee," the report reads.
"Based on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady (the quarterback for the Patriots) was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls."
The report added that no other Patriots personnel were aware of the incident.
"We do not believe that the evidence supports a conclusion that there was any deliberate effort by the Patriots to circumvent the NFL's playing rules with respect to the kicking balls used during the AFC Championship game," the report added.
Goodell said in a statement on the NFL website: "As with other recent matters involving violations of competitive rules, (NFL executive vice president of football operations) Troy Vincent and his team will consider what steps to take in light of the report, both with respect to possible disciplinary action and to any changes in protocols that are necessary to avoid future incidents of this type."
The Patriots' 45-7 victory over the Colts took them into the Super Bowl final, but it was reported soon after that 11 of the 12 balls used in the first half were below regulation pressure limits.
Deflating a ball can, but will not necessarily, make it easier to catch.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft expressed his dismay at the findings.
He said: "To say we are disappointed in its findings, which do not include any incontrovertible or hard evidence of deliberate deflation of footballs at the AFC Championship game, would be a gross understatement.
"While I respect the independent process of the investigation, the time, effort and resources expended to reach this conclusion are incomprehensible to me.
"Knowing that there is no real recourse available, fighting the league and extending this debate would prove to be futile.
"We understand and greatly respect the responsibility of being one of 32 in this league and, on that basis, we will accept the findings of the report and take the appropriate actions based on those findings as well as any discipline levied by the league."