Initial thoughts on Wells report findings on Deflategate

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After reading the executive summary section of attorney Ted Wells' report on Deflategate -- which stated that it's probable New England Patriots personnel deliberately deflated footballs during the AFC Championship Game in January, and that quarterback Tom Brady was probably "at least generally aware" of the rule violation -- here are my initial thoughts:

Stronger than expected: The findings center on three Patriots employees -- Brady, equipment assistant John Jastremski and Jim McNally, a game-day employee who serves as the officials locker room attendant. While the report does not decisively determine the Patriots deliberately deflated footballs, it builds a case to support that possibility with the key words "more probable than not." Some specifics of the report, most notably text messages between Jastremski and McNally, are stronger than I anticipated. The report makes it clear that owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and any other Patriots are not believed to be part of any deliberate effort to circumvent the rules. So this is mainly about Brady, Jastremski and McNally.

Brady could face a fine and/or suspension: Two things specific to Brady stand out. First, he appeared for a requested interview and answered questions voluntarily, but he declined to make available any documents or electronic information (including text messages and emails) that were requested. Second, Brady said he didn't know McNally's name or anything about his game-day responsibilities, including whether McNally had any role relating to game balls. Investigators didn't find that plausible and contradicted it with other evidence. While Brady denied any knowledge of or involvement in any efforts to deflate game balls after the pregame inspection by the game officials, the feeling here is that this report puts him at risk of suspension and, at the least, a fine.

McNally and the "deflator": McNally referred to himself as the "deflator" in text messages. There was also a reference in text messages to a "needle," and McNally said he was "not going to ESPN ... yet." Those are the strongest parts of the report that suggest a deliberate attempt to deflate footballs. While Patriots counsel referred to those text messages as written in humor, investigators viewed it differently in building their case that it's "more probable than not" there was a deliberate attempt to do so. McNally didn't initially tell investigators he took the game footballs into the bathroom en route to the field, and investigators said his story varied.

The role of science. The Patriots have focused on science as the explanation for the reduction in PSI, and now we know the levels of PSI in all of the footballs when they were measured at halftime. The Wells report acknowledge that air pressure will decrease in certain conditions, but cast doubt that this was simply about science because the rate of the drop between the Patriots and Colts footballs wasn't the same.