Ted Wells had a clear message on Tuesday: He was not influenced by any outside sources in making his conclusions on the Patriots' use of deflated footballs in January's AFC Championship Game.
"When I was appointed to be the independent investigator, no one at the Patriots or in Mr. Brady's camp raised any issue about my independence or my integrity to judge the evidence impartially and fairly," Wells said in his opening remarks. "In fact, (Patriots owner Robert) Kraft, to my recollection, publicly said he welcomed my appointment. I think it is wrong to criticize my independence just because you disagree with my findings."
Wells concluded in his 243-page report released last week it was "more probable than not" that Brady was at least generally aware of inappropriate activities of two team employees who are believed to have deflated footballs prior to the AFC title game against the Colts. Based on those findings, the NFL suspended Brady four games, fined the team $1 million and docked New England first- and fourth-round draft picks in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Wells said that Brady worked with him on most aspects of the investigation, including a face-to-face interview in which the Patriots star was "totally cooperative." That responsiveness ended when Wells sought information on Brady's cell phone.
"I said that I don't want to see any private information," Wells said. "I said, 'You keep the phone, you the agent, Mr. Yee. You can look at the phone, you give me documents that are responsive to this investigation and I will take your word that you have given me what's responsive.' And they still refused."
Wells said that most of the key evidence in this case, as in most cases now, comes from information found on electronic devices. He explained how this reality conflicted with the assertion from the Brady camp that they cooperated fully with the investigation.
Some other nuggets from Wells:
» "I believe the conclusions have been proven. I used the words 'more probable than not' because that is what's in the rules."
» "When the Colts made the complaint, no one at the league office took the complaint seriously. (The NFL) flipped the complaint by email to the operations people so they knew about it. They told the refs. ... There was no sting operation."
» When asked directly about billing, Wells said his firm charged by the hour and the cost of the report was "in the millions." He opted not to elaborate further.
» Wells strongly disputed the notion the NFL was out to get Brady.
"In my mind, the NFL, based on my view of the world, certainly wasn't hoping that I would come back with a report that would find that something had been wrong with the Patriots or Tom Brady. They wanted me to get to the bottom of the facts. And all of this discussion that somewhere people at the league office wanted to put some kind of hit on the most iconic, popular player in the league, the real face of the league, it just doesn't really make any sense. It's really a ridiculous allegation."
» Wells' final point to reporters: "What drove the decision in this report was one thing, it was the evidence. And I could not ethically ignore the importance and relevancy of those text messages and the other evidence. I mean the notion that (Jim) McNally is referring to himself as 'The Deflator' before the season starts and threatened them that he had not gone to ESPN yet, no one can ignore the implications of that text message and no one can see it as a joke, and nor is it circumstantial evidence. It is direct evidence and it is important."
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