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New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was probably "at least generally aware" that some footballs were illegally deflated in the Patriots' AFC Championship win in January, according to an NFL-commissioned report released Wednesday. (Tweet this)
An investigation found that the Patriots made no "deliberate attempt" to play with an unapproved kicking football during the contest. However, it concluded that some Patriots personnel probably made a "deliberate effort" to modify some footballs, which were not inflated to NFL specifications in what became known as "Deflategate."
Patriots owner Robert Kraft—as well as the team's coaching staff and head equipment manager—likely did not know about any attempts to illegally modify footballs, according to the report.
"Throughout the process of this nearly four-month investigation, we have cooperated and patiently awaited its outcome. 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," Kraft said in a statement.
Kraft also noted that there is "no real recourse available" for any rule violations.
The Patriots won the game against the Indianapolis Colts and would go on to beat the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Discussion after the game surrounded whether the Patriots attempted to gain a competitive advantage, as under-inflated footballs are easier to throw and catch.
Locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski likely tried to release air from the game balls after they were examined by referees, the investigation found. In text messages included in the report, the pair implied they wanted to modify some footballs Brady used during regular season games.
They discussed Brady's qualms with game balls, as well as requests for Jastremski to provide McNally with a "needle," which can be used to inflate or deflate footballs. McNally also asked for cash and shoes.
In an October text conversation, McNally said he wanted to turn a football into a "balloon."
After the report was released, Las Vegas sports book William Hill took the Patriots' first game of the upcoming season off the board, pending the NFL disclosing whether it will suspend Brady, said Michael Grodsky, director of marketing at William Hill. It also took the Patriots' odds for its AFC East division down.
William Hill is "waiting to see what happens" with discipline before making any more changes, Grodsky said. The Patriots are slated to play the Pittsburgh Steelers in their season opener.