Report: Patriots and NFL in ‘Back-Channel’ Deflategate Discussions

robert kraft

The New England Patriots and the NFL pursue “back-channel conversations” to resolve the standoff between the league and the team on punishment over Deflategate, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The alternatives include the Patriots pursuing a nuclear option. Although the league’s by-laws forbid the franchise from taking the league to court, the law does not. This Al Davis route risks further eroding Roger Goodell’s power by handing him another embarrassing loss, muddying the reputation of the league’s marquee franchise, and dragging out negative publicity on an issue that the NFL rulebook deals with by meting out a $25,000 fine.

The NFL fined the New England Patriots $1 million and subtracted a first- and fourth-round draft pick from the team over the Deflategate affair. The NFL’s investigator Ted Wells concluded that quarterback probably knew of a scheme to deflate footballs prior to the AFC Championship Game. The league cited a failure to cooperate with the investigation in handing down punishment to the Patriots.

Ted Wells’ Exhibit A on this count appeared to damage Wells more than the Patriots. The investigator noted that the team “provided cooperation throughout the investigation” but said it “refused to make Jim McNally available for a follow-up interview.”

“I was offended by the comments made in the Wells Report in reference to not making an individual available for a follow-up interview,” Patriots owner Rober Kraft reacted. “What the report fails to mention is that he had already been interviewed four times and we felt the fifth request for access was excessive for a part-time game day employee who has a full-time job with another employer.”

This appears as but one part of the report that likely makes it a pinata to Patriots lawyers suing the league. Wells bizarrely, and without any offered rationale, disregarding the testimony of referee Walt Anderson on what gauge he used prior to the game likely discredits the investigator and the league that employed him. “What is the consequence of rejecting Anderson’s statement that he used the Logo gauge pre-game?” a lengthy rebuttal released by the Patriots asks. “The Ideal Gas Law, according to the League’s consultants, establishes that the psi of the Patriots footballs at halftime would have been 11.32 to 11.52 due solely to the temperature impact on the footballs. (pg. 113). With the Logo gauge, 8 of the 11 Patriots footballs are in the Ideal Gas Law range and the average of all 11 Patriots footballs was 11.49 — fully consistent with the Ideal Gas Law’s prediction of exactly what that psi would be.”

Kraft and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell both reside today at San Francisco’s Ritz-Carlton, which may play as the ideal, and perhaps only, venue where the pair could iron out their differences.

Kraft appears as perplexed and outraged over the punishment as he was when he issued his initial fiery response to the Wells Report, which took pains to absolve the organization from wrongdoing even as it theorized a “more probable than not” verdict of guilt for the face of the franchise. In its opening paragraphs, the Wells Report stated that “we do not believe there was any wrongdoing or knowledge of wrongdoing by Patriots ownership, Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick or any other Patriots coach in the matters investigated.”