The hits just keep on coming for the New England Patriots.
The NFL reinstated two suspended Patriots staffers, equipment assistant John Jastremski and officials locker room attendant Jim McNally, this week despite their alleged involvement in New England’s Deflategate scandal. One ex-NFL official is skeptical of McNally based on past experiences, though.
Former NFL head linesman Mark Baltz — who’s based in Indianapolis, for the record — told WTHR’s Bob Kravitz last week he wasn’t surprised McNally was in the middle of the Deflategate controversy because the Patriots employee acted strange over the years.
Baltz even said he reported McNally to league officials “six or eight years ago” but never heard back.
“He always asked for the footballs way, way before he was supposed to get them,” Baltz, an NFL official from 1989 to 2013, told Kravitz before McNally was reinstated. “If he could get them 10 or 15 minutes before he was supposed to get them, instead of the usual two minutes before the game — and there were some crews that let him do that — he would do it.
“I wouldn’t let him take them early, and I think he eventually figured that out because he stopped asking after a while. I probably did 10 to 15 games up there (in Foxboro, Mass.) and those first few times, he’d always ask. I always thought it was very suspicious. He certainly acted in a suspicious manner.”
Baltz actually worked in Foxboro six times, according to CSNNE.com’s Tom E. Curran, citing Pro-Football-Reference.com. That, coupled with Baltz’s Indy roots, obviously creates questions about the legitimacy of his claims, though it’s difficult to dismiss his comments entirely based on the apparent leaguewide suspicion of the Patriots and the findings of the Ted Wells report.
“For an officials’ locker room attendant, I always thought he was an unusual dude,’’ Baltz told Kravtiz of McNally. “Most locker room guys, they sit there and if you need something, they got it for you. When you left the locker room, you’d lock the door and they’d stay right there. The other 31 teams, that’s what they would do. That was his job.
“But McNally, he was running all around like a chicken with his head cut off. Asking for the balls early. What I specifically reported him for several years ago, and I thought this was really unusual, he’d run out on the field with the footballs before the game and the next thing you know, he’s playing pitch and catch with (Tom) Brady. Then, next thing, he’s on the sidelines right next to (Bill) Belichick, like he’s a (expletive) assistant coach or something.”
Baltz described McNally as “always worried about the footballs.” He even wonders whether McNally planned ahead with regard to officiating crews — something Baltz clearly views as odd in comparison to how every other NFL teams’ locker room attendants operate.
“I think McNally did his homework and knew which crews he was dealing with and which crews he could get over on — `Are the footballs ready yet? Are the footballs ready.’ I’d tell him, `Yeah, they’re ready, but when we go out on the field, you can have them,’ ” Baltz recounted. “Obviously, there were a lot of times when he’s gotten them early and had the time to let some air out of the ball, or whatever he was doing with them.
“All I know is, when he got them (the footballs), he would run. He would take off. Whether he was going somewhere and letting air out, I’m definitely suspicious, but I don’t know for sure.”
McNally and Jastremski were reinstated Wednesday, but there’s a catch. McNally is prohibited from being a locker room attendant for officials or handling equipment and Jastremski is prohibited from handling footballs, according to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.
That’s probably for the best, as suspicions about the Patriots continue to run wild.
Thumbnail photo via Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via NFL official Mark Baltz