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Patriots Accuse Colts of Breaking the Rules in Rebuttal to Wells Report

The New England Patriots released a rebuttal to the Wells Report today in which they accuse the Indianapolis Colts of cheating too.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots won't go down without a fight, as today they launched with a rebuttal to the Wells Report about deflategate.  And if you can find time to take a break from laughing about the Patriots claiming that "the deflator" reference was actually in response to losing weight (seriously… they said that…), then you'll find this tidbit where the Patriots accuse the Colts of breaking the rules:

8. During the second quarter of the AFC Championship Game, a ball thrown by Tom Brady was intercepted by a player for the Colts and the ball was taken to the Colts sideline. On the sideline, Colts equipment personnel used a pressure gauge to measure the inflation level of the ball, determined that it was below the minimum 12.5 psi level and informed a game official and other NFL personnel.

Once the game starts, neither team is allowed to gauge the footballs, pump them, or the like. That is solely the province of the referee, who is to be the "sole judge" of whether footballs comply. The Colts, with advance concerns about psi, did not take the issue to the referee. They took the matter into their own hands and had an intern gauge the football. (pg. 63) This conduct was in violation of Rule 2. Nowhere does the Report identify this conduct as a violation of the Rule.

So basically, the Patriots claim that, when the Colts intercepted the football in the AFC Championship game, a Colts' equipment guy measured the inflation level of the football - which is against the NFL rules because during games only the officials can do that.  Rule 2, Section 1 of the NFL rulebook states that, "the Referee shall be the sole judge as to whether all balls offered for play comply with these specifications."

In the Wells Report, the events of the issue are recorded.  After D'Qwell Jackson intercepted the football, he handed it to David Thornton (the Colts' Director of Player Engagement), surely wanting to keep the football as a souvenir.  Thornton handed the ball to the Colts' Assistant Equipment Manager Brian Seabrooks, who thought the ball felt under inflated - just like the footballs the Colts intercepted in their first meeting with the Patriots.  So Seabrooks had an equipment intern find a pressure gauge and measure the inflation level of the football.  The intern found that the pressure level was at 11 psi (below the legal limit).  Seabrooks then took the football to the Colts' Equipment Manager, Sean Sullivan, who felt the football and also thought it felt under inflated.  Then the proper people were alerted to the issue and it was taken from there.

Furthermore, in a letter sent from Daniel L. Goldberg (a senior partner for Morgan Lewis in Boston) to Ted Wells about the Patriots' cooperation with the investigation, he wrote this:

"The Patriots also supplied information to Mr. Wells about a prior reported incident of actual ball tampering which took place during a Vikings-Panthers game in 2014.  Evidence was also provided that Indianapolis ball boys, in a prior season, had been seen by Jacksonville personnel with ball needles hidden under their long sleeves.  There was also evidence provided that game officials had over-inflated the balls they had approved for use in the October 16, 2014 Patriots-Jets game."

So while the Patriots wouldn't fully cooperate with the investigation into their own wrongdoing, they were more than willing to provide information about other teams' wrongdoings.

Look, it's hard to know what all is true, especially because this is a report coming from the Patriots in which they say that "the deflator" was really about losing weight, and in which they say that going to ESPN was just about new shoes, and in which they say that McNally was simply using the restroom for 1:40 before the game.  So we really don't know what to make of all of this, but if the Colts were actually in violation of the rules, then they should be punished too.  If the Patriots did indeed provide evidence of the Colts' cheating, or if the Colts really were in violation of the rules when it came to measuring the football in the AFC Championship game, then disciplinary action should be taken.  But let's keep in mind that it would be a violation much less severe than the Patriots' violation, firstly because it didn't impact the on-field aspect of the game but also because the Colts (so far) don't appear to have lied about it either.  The Patriots should absolutely be punished for their role in deflating footballs, and if the Colts deserve minor consequences for their minor violations, then that should happen as well.  But right now, I think the NFL is probably too busy dealing with the Patriots and their desire to fight the league on this issue.