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'More Probable Than Not' That Patriots Deflated Footballs, NFL Report Says


It is more probable than not. Those words are at the bottom line of a report out today about deflate-gate, as in, it's more probable than not that the New England Patriots deflated footballs ahead of the AFC Championship Game. The Patriots won that game against the Indianapolis Colts, and they went on to win the Super Bowl. Footballs that are underinflated are easier to catch and to grip. Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy is among those eager to see the results of this investigation. He's on the line with us now. Dan Shaughnessy, more probable than not - what does that tell you?

DAN SHAUGHNESSY: Well, those aren't good words for the Patriots. They don't have a conclusion that would hold up in a court of law, but the circumstantial evidence is a mountain, and that's why you have the careful phrasing, more probable than not. It doesn't prohibit them from sanctioning the team or the individuals because they are a member of a club, and they're allowed to sanction them. And Roger Goodell has stated on more than one occasion that ignorance is not an excuse - that you need to know what's going on in your organization.

SIEGEL: Goodell, the NFL commissioner. What does the report say about whether quarterback Tom Brady was in on deflating the footballs, if indeed they were deflated, as seems more likely than not?

SHAUGHNESSY: It goes back to more probable than not that Tom Brady at least had a general awareness is what they're saying. Again, he has on the record talked in the past about how he likes the footballs inflated a certain level. And there's a trail of texts and e-mails and phone calls that is very damning for Brady and the Patriots and McNally and Jastremski in this case. So yes, more probable than not is probably going to be enough to cause some trouble for them.

SIEGEL: Cause some trouble for them - what do you think that's going to mean? What should it mean?

SHAUGHNESSY: Well, I mean the League - they have 31 other members in this case, and if they feel that the Patriots knowingly are violating rules, they will sanction them. I would not be surprised if Brady is sanctioned, which is a fairly seismic event given his impeccable reputation, his body of work and his iconic status here and throughout America.

SIEGEL: A fine, a suspension - what do you think that could be?

SHAUGHNESSY: A suspension would not surprise me.

SIEGEL: And what about the team? How do you sanction the New England Patriots if they are collectively held responsible for this?

SHAUGHNESSY: Well, they've done it before. There was a spygate episode with videotaping sideline signals of the opponents in 2007, and they were fined a very heavy amount. Draft picks were involved. They can do things like that. I don't think the organization is going to get hit especially hard with this. I don't know. No one knows. But I think it might come sooner rather than later.

SIEGEL: Have fans there had time to react to this news yet? What are you hearing?

SHAUGHNESSY: Well, it kind of falls in again - Patriot fans are used to having the organization be a target of what they consider jealous rivals who are tired of being beaten by the Patriots and that New England's level of success engenders this kind of thing. So there's a bunker mentality in parts of the Patriots fan base. I think others are probably a little bit embarrassed or not happy with this. But you can be sure there will be some rallying that the League is just out to get them.

SIEGEL: I gather there's a lot of focus in this report on Jim McNally, an employee of the patriots who is responsible for taking the balls out to the field - does so unusually unaccompanied by officials, takes them into a bathroom with him for about a minute and a half, and it may turn out that that minute and a half was a critical time.

SHAUGHNESSY: Again, it's hard to read the report and not come away with a conclusion that they were intentionally deflating the footballs. To what degree that that helps them, that's open for debate. But again, it's really - it makes your head hurt to try to find a way that they weren't intentionally doing this.

SIEGEL: Yeah. It should be pointed out that after the balls were - after properly inflated balls were inserted in the second half, they did extremely well and did equally well in the Super Bowl later, so they could obviously - Tom Brady can win with a fully inflated football. That's not an issue.

SHAUGHNESSY: No question - the Super Bowl is fair and square, and they beat the Colts 45-3. I think the larger issue is, is this some sort of a systemic thing that's been going on for a while, and has it given them any kind of an edge over the years?

SIEGEL: Dan Shaughnessy, thanks for talking with us about it.


SIEGEL: That's Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy on the results of the deflate-gate investigation. It says it's more probable than not that the Patriots deliberately used deflated balls during the AFC Championship in January. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.