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Evidence collected so far by NFL investigators indicates that under-inflated footballs were used by the New England Patriots in the first half of Sunday's AFC Championship game, but not in the second half, the league said Friday. The question it wants to answer now is why—and whether anyone deflated balls on purpose. "We have not made any judgments on these points and will not do so until we have concluded our investigation and considered all of the relevant evidence," the NFL said in a statement.
The probe, led by NFL Executive Vice President Jess Pash and prominent criminal defense lawyer Ted Wells, was launched soon after the game and has already compiled interviews with Patriots personnel, game officials and "third parties with relevant information and expertise," the league said. Renaissance Associates, a private investigation firm, is providing forensic expertise in the reviewing of videos and other electronic evidence.
The Patriots, playing on their home field in Foxborough, Massachusetts, routed the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 to earn a berth in the Super Bowl. The allegations of under-inflated balls surfaced immediately after, forcing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to hold a news conference Thursday in which he said he never knowingly played with a football that did not meet league regulations. The NFL said it confirmed that the footballs were inspected by officials prior to the game. "The playing rules are intended to protect the fairness and integrity of our games," the league said. "We take seriously claims that those rules have been violated and will fully investigate this matter without compromise or delay."
Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement that had instructed his team to be "completely cooperative and transparent" with investigators. "It is an ongoing process that the league and our team are taking very seriously," Kraft said.