Before there was DeflateGate, there was PracticeBallGate.
The Wells Report was released Wednesday, and the 243-page document concluded “it was more probable than not” that two New England Patriots employees intentionally deflated footballs for the AFC Championship Game and quarterback Tom Brady likely was “generally aware” of it.
But this isn’t the first time the Patriots — and more specifically locker room attendant Jim McNally — have been accused of an incident involving illegal game balls. McNally, whose incriminating Brady-bashing text messages were included in the DeflateGate report, also came under NFL review in 2004 for allowing practice balls to be used during games.
According to the Wells Report, a letter from then-NFL director of game operations Peter Hadhazy dated Nov. 2, 2004 said the incident involved New England ball boys relaying “non-approved practice balls to a game official” during an Oct. 25, 2004 regular-season game. (There actually was no game that day, but the Patriots did beat the New York Jets 13-7 on Oct. 24.)
The Wells Report stated McNally, referred to as “James McNulty” in the letter, was described as the person “in charge of the game day footballs” for the Patriots. He also was the team’s equipment manager at the time and chalked the incident up to “just an honest mistake,” per the report.
But Hadhazy wrote in a letter that the Patriots failed to provide a reasonable explanation for the incident and warned the team could face disciplinary action “if a similar incident occurred in the future because it could be interpreted as a competitive violation,” according to the report.
Thumbnail photo via Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports Images
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