One of the Patriots' biggest complaints all along as the deflategate investigation went on was reportedly that they think it was simply a sting operation by the NFL and the Colts to catch them in the act of cheating. If you ask Ted Wells, the one who did the investigation (and therefore someone who knows more than most about the issue), he doesn't buy that at all.
Wells held a conference call with media today in which he went on the offensive against Tom Brady's agent Don Yee and sounded pretty convincing. He was obviously asked whether it was a sting operation, and his reply was interesting: Wells said that nobody at the NFL took the Colts' complaint seriously when they made it the week before the AFC Championship game. He added that, at the time, there was no evidence that backed up what the Colts were saying. Wells noted that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was not informed about it and that those who did know about the complaint didn't take it seriously.
Part of the email that Colts' general manager Ryan Grigson sent to the NFL was taken from an email that he had previously received from a Colts' equipment manager, writing:
"It is well known around the league that after the Patriots gameballs are checked by the officials and brought out for game usage the ballboys for the patriots will let out some air with a ball needle because their quarterback likes a smaller football so he can grip it better, it would be great if someone would be able to check the air in the game balls as the game goes on so that they don't get an illegal advantage."
Make no mistake: teams complain about other teams all the time. Whether that's about something as simple as a missed holding call or a missed pass interference penalty to something more serious like cheating accusations, teams are always looking to even the playing field.
Of course, if the NFL considered it a serious enough violation to warrant the loss of draft picks and a $1 million fine, and a four-game suspension for Tom Brady, you would have thought that they would have considered the accusation serious enough to at least look into, but it sounds like entering the game, the NFL didn't. This could perhaps be where Ryan Grigson's in-game complaint to the NFL comes into the picture, as after that the league possibly opted to look into it further.
What this statement by Ted Wells does help to show is that it wasn't the Colts conspiring with the NFL against the Patriots, because the NFL didn't even believe the Colts at first. You could question the Colts' motive for bringing it up to the NFL (though it's pretty clear that it was at least in large part due to wanting a level playing field), but you can't really say that they conspired with the NFL to trap the Patriots when the NFL didn't even believe the Colts' complaint in the first place.
A few other notes from Ted Wells' conference call today:
- He cleared up the fact about being denied a second interview with Jim McNally. Wells said that league security officials spoke to McNally three times before he came on to do the investigation, and therefore he only talked with McNally once. After finding out about McNally calling himself "the deflator," Wells wanted to speak to him again (understandably so), but at that point the Patriots didn't just deny the request but also didn't even let McNally know about it. This was the major reason why Wells viewed the Patriots as being uncooperative.
- Perhaps the biggest thing that Ted Wells cleared up was the issue over Tom Brady refusing to hand over his phone. Many Patriots defenders have insisted that Brady shouldn't have had to give up his phone (which he didn't), and Wells agreed. Rather, Wells insisted that Brady and his agent could keep the phone and not turn it over but simply gather the pertinent information and hand that over in the form of printouts - but they declined. This deflates one of the biggest challenges from Patriots fans and media to the Wells Report, as they insisted that Brady shouldn't have to give over his phone. It turns out that Wells never asked them to do that but rather just hand over printouts of messages that pertained to this issue, and they wouldn't even do that.
- One last point to note is Wells' response to Brady's agent insisting that he has notes from the investigation's discussion with Tom Brady that prove him innocent. Wells flat out challenged him to release those notes, saying that he has no issue with them being released to the media. His message to Don Yee: "publish the notes."