If Jim McNally was trying to sneak the New England Patriots’ footballs out of the officials locker room prior to the AFC Championship Game, he failed miserably, according to the team.
The Patriots on Thursday releasedÂ aÂ rebuttal of the Wells Report, entitled “The Wells Report in Context,” in which they countered most of investigator Ted Wells’ evidence against the team.
Wells’ report implies McNally, a Patriots staffer, snuck the team’s footballs out of the officials locker room so he could take them into a bathroom for 100 seconds to deflate them. McNally walked pastÂ several NFL officials on his way to the bathroom, according to the Patriots’ account, and no one noticed anything was amiss.
“Rule 2 goes on to state that the footballs shall remain ‘under the supervision of the referee until they are delivered to the football attendant just prior to the start of the game.’ (pg. 32). The report concludes that ‘football attendant’ refers to the ball boys,” Patriots attorney Daniel L. Goldberg wrote. “Nowhere in the report, however, is there any discussion about whether the referee or other League officials failed to properly maintain this supervision, which one would have expected to have been particularly vigilant in the wake of the Colts expressed concerns.
“The report acknowledges that game officials specifically allowed Mr. McNally to take the game footballs from the dressing room of the Officialsâ Locker Room (where the referee was) into the separate sitting room (pg. 55). No one told Mr. McNally that he could not then proceed to the field with the footballs. When the NFC Championship Game ended abruptly in overtime and Mr. McNally started from the back of the sitting room towards the door to the hallway, he walked by numerous League officials in the sitting room.
“As the report states (pg. 55), the sitting room was crowded with ‘NFL personnel, game officials and others gathered there to watch the conclusion of the NFC Championship Game on television.’ Mr. McNally had to navigate this crowd of officials to make it through the sitting room with two large bags of footballs on his shoulders.
“Mr. McNally, a physically big man, hoisted two large bags of footballs and lumbered past all these League officials and out the door of the Officialsâ Locker Room. As is clear from the report, no one objected; no one told him to stop; no one requested that he wait to be accompanied by a League official; no one told him that a League official had to carry the footballs to the field.
“After he walked past all of these League officials and out the door of the Officialsâ Locker Room to the hallway, he then walked past James Daniel, an NFL official and one of the people who had been alerted to the Colts psi concerns pre-game (pg. 45). Mr. Daniel, as seen on the security video, looked at Mr. McNally carrying the bags of footballs toward the field unaccompanied by any League or game official, and made no objection to Mr. McNally continuing unaccompanied to the field.
“In short, if officials lost track of the location of game footballs, it was not because Mr. McNally stealthily removed them. (Omitted from the investigation were interviews with all those League officials whom Mr. McNally walked past with the bags of footballs on his shoulders.)
“Even after halftime, when obvious attention was being paid to game footballs and psi issues by League and game officials, who took control of the footballs at halftime, the security video shows Mr. McNally, with no objection, taking the footballs from the Officialsâ Locker Room back to the field totally unaccompanied by any League or Game official.
“Mr. McNallyâs removal of the footballs from the Officialsâ Locker Room before the game began was simply not unauthorized, unknown, unusual, or in violation of some protocol or instruction. The report nonetheless portrays Mr. McNallyâs departure from the Officialsâ Locker Room before the game as a step in secretly taking the footballs for nefarious reasons.”
Thumbnail photo viaÂ Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images