Report: NFL Covered Up Deflategate Air-Pressure Measurements That Would Have Cast Patriots, Tom Brady in New Light

The NFL conducted air-pressure spot-checks at halftime of games starting with the 2015 season and kept the results hidden

NFL officials bring out the chains and measure for a first down.
NFL officials bring out the chains and measure for a first down.
Al Messerschmidt/Getty

With the House Committee on Oversight and Reform currently looking into whether an NFL investigation into sexual harassment of women employed by Washington’s football franchise was actually independent and on the level, a new report about a past league probe into a much less important matter actually isn’t that surprising.

According to a chapter in the forthcoming Playmakers by Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk, the NFL ordered that data collected during random air-pressure spot-checks of footballs at halftime of games during the 2015 season in the wake of the Deflategate saga be destroyed because it would have hurt the league’s case against Tom Brady and the Patriots.

Per Florio, “numerous” measurements taken at halftime of games during the 2015 season resulted in numbers that were outside of the permitted range of 12.5 to 13.5 psi. That finding was in line with a standard the Patriots often cited (and amazingly still do) to explain the low psi level in the team’s footballs during the 2014 AFC Championship Game against the Colts, the Ideal Gas Law, which dictates that pressure inside balls will rise on warm days and fall on cold days.

Since those findings did not help the league’s case during the 18-month legal battle that was Deflategate, which resulted in Tom Brady being suspended for four games and the Patriots losing first- and fourth-round draft picks in addition to being fined $1 million, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash ordered the air-pressure spot-check numbers to be expunged.

“Why would the league delete the numbers? It’s simple,” Florio writes. “For cold days, the numbers were too close to the actual numbers generated by the New England footballs at halftime of the playoff game against the Colts. Which means that the numbers generated at halftime of the 2015 AFC Championship were not evidence of cheating, but of the normal operation of air pressure inside a rubber bladder when the temperature drops. Just as it was expected. The effort to test the operation of air pressure in footballs in the season played after the game in question (an effort the NFL had never before undertaken) resulted in numbers that were inconveniently similar to the numbers haphazardly collected in a game of ‘gotcha’ that was instigated against the Patriots. Thus, those numbers never saw — and never will see — the light of day. The NFL made sure of that.”

None of that proves that the Patriots and Brady were innocent in the matter. In reality, based on the text messages exchanged between former team equipment managers John Jastremski and Jim McNally about Brady, it’s fairly clear that something fishy was going on with the footballs. But, as the expunged numbers would have revealed had they not been kept from the light of day, the NFL couldn’t prove it.

At the end of the day, the NFL allegedly keeping its Deflategate findings private because they make the league look bad really isn’t a big deal. The Patriots, who went on to win multiple post-Deflategate Super Bowls, came out of it just fine and Brady, as of last week, is retired. But the NFL being shady about the little stuff makes it incredibly difficult to trust the league about issues that are far more important than the air pressure in footballs.

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