NFL finds Patriots employees probably deflated balls

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NEW YORK (AP/WPRI) — An NFL investigation has found that New England Patriots employees likely deflated footballs and that quarterback Tom Brady was “at least generally aware” of the rules violations.

The NFL began the investigation after the Patriots won the AFC Championship game in January, when the Indianapolis Colts complained that several footballs were under inflated.

The 243-page report released Wednesday said league investigators found no evidence that coach Bill Belichick and team management knew of the practice.

In a statement, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft criticized the outcome of the probe, saying: “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.” He described the scale of the investigation as “incomprehensible.”

But, Kraft said, “Knowing that there is no real recourse available, fighting the league and extending this debate would prove to be futile.”

It’s unclear so far what action, if any, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will take in response to Wells’ findings.

The controversy over the allegedly deflated footballs exploded in the hours after the AFC Championship game in January, when the Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts to move on to the Super Bowl. The allegations that the Pats knowingly under-inflated footballs to gain a competitive advantage cast a shadow over the team’s triumphant championship run.

Among other findings, the report says one of the locker room attendants received two autographed footballs and an autographed game-worn jersey from Brady on Jan. 10, a week before the AFC Championship game.

The report suggests Brady declined to provide emails, text messages and phone records sought by Wells in the course of his investigation, though the quarterback did answer questions.

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