The latest “Deflategate” rumors around the New England Patriots center around a new study by a respected Washington think-tank, the American Enterprise Institute, that could lead to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell throwing out the four-game suspension against the Patriots future Hall of Fame quarterback, Tom Brady.
For football fans who have been blissfully ignorant of the media over the past several months, Brady was slapped with the ban after a report by Ted Wells, a lawyer hired by the National Football League, concluded that it was “more probable than not” that Brady was “generally aware” of Patriots field staff who allegedly tampered with game footballs, deflating them below the league-approved minimum air pressure.
But critics of the Wells Report, including the Patriots themselves in their own study titled The Wells Report In Context, argue that Wells made serious errors, and the Patriots footballs used in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts were not deflated at all — at least, not deliberately by human hands.
The study by AEI — a research institute devoted largely to conservative political causes — is the first truly independent, full analysis of the Deflategate controversy, because AEI was not hired either by the NFL or the New England Patriots to carry out the study.
“We have no financial stake in the outcome of Deflategate,” the report’s authors made clear.
An earlier AEI report on the New Orleans Saints “Bountygate” scandal played a part in the tossing aside of several suspensions in that case.
The Deflategate study’s authors conclude that the Wells Report findings are unreliable for several reasons. Perhaps most important, while Wells concluded that the Patriots footballs had deflated more than expected when examined at halftime of the AFC Championship, AEI says that what actually happened was that the Colts footballs deflated less than they should have.
That caused the misperception that there was something amiss with the Patriots’ football supply by comparison.
“Contrary to the report, the significant difference between the changes in pressure of the two teams’ balls was not because the pressure of the Patriots balls was too low,” the AEI researchers wrote in a New York Times summary of their findings, “but because that of the Colts balls was too high.”
The entire AEI report may be downloaded in PDF format at this link.
While Goodell refused a request by the NFL Players Association to step aside from Brady’s appeal hearing, set for June 23, he also said that “my mind is open” and that he could be persuaded by “new information or evidence.”
Could the independently arrived-at AEI findings provide that “new evidence” for Goodell to void the New England superstar’s suspension?
“Goodell will have to admit that he hired an investigator who did a poor job. Which would mean that Goodell did a poor job in hiring Ted Wells,” wrote NFL expert Mike Florio of the NBC-owned Pro Football Talk site. “Which could mean that Goodell will give no credence to the findings of AEI.”
While it’s all just rumors and speculation at this point, after June 23 the New England Patriots should know whether they will have Tom Brady on the field when September 10 rolls around as they open the NFL season against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
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