The New England Patriots employees likely deliberately deflated footballs used in the AFC Championship, and quarterback Tom Brady was probably "at least generally aware" of the rules violations, an NFL investigation released Wednesday found.
The NFL report said "it was more than probable" that Jim McNally, the officials locker room attendant, and John Jastremski, an equipment assistant for the Patriots, were involved in "a deliberate effort to release air" from the footballs after they were examined by the referee.
The report includes text messages between McNally and Jastremski that imply Brady was requesting footballs deflated below 12.5 pounds per square inch.
The NFL requires balls to be inflated between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch, and each team is responsible for the balls it uses on offense.
Footballs with less pressure can be easier to grip and catch. Some quarterbacks prefer footballs that have less air.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said it will be up to Troy Vincent, the league's executive vice president of football operations, and his team to decide 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 243-page report said league investigators found no evidence that coach Bill Belichick and team management knew of the practice.
ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that the NFL is considering discipline for Brady, McNally and Jastremski.
The NFL began investigating after the Patriots defeated the Colts 45-7 on Jan. 18. The Colts complained that several footballs were under inflated and the NFL confirmed that 11 of the 12 footballs were under the limit.
The investigation started as the Patriots were preparing for the Super Bowl, which they won two weeks later.
Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft expressed his displeasure Wednesday after the investigation's findings were announced.
"When I addressed the media at the Super Bowl on January 26 – over 14 weeks ago – I stated that I unconditionally believed that the New England Patriots had done nothing inappropriate in this process or in violation of the NFL rules and that I was disappointed in the way the league handled the initial investigation," Kraft said. "That sentiment has not changed.
"While I respect the independent process of the investigation, the time, effort and resources expended to reach this conclusion are incomprehensible to me," Kraft added. "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."