The Patriots originally pledged full cooperation with the NFL’s investigation into football inflation. Eventually, however, the Patriots decided that cooperation had its limits.
The team declined to make Jim McNally, who had been interviewed multiple times during the process by league officials and by Ted Wells, available for a follow-up interview. As explained at page 87 of the report, Wells wanted to ask McNally specifically about a text message he sent to John Jastremski at or around halftime of New England’s game against the Packers at Lambeau Field on November 30, 2014: “Deflate and give somebody that jkt.”
Because McNally worked for the Patriots only at home games, he wasn’t in Green Bay for the game against the Packers. But the comment possibly relates to deflation activities in which McNally was involved during games played at Gillette Stadium. Ultimately, no further light was shed on the message because McNally wasn’t made available for another interview.
Per a league source, McNally was willing to be questioned again by phone, but the NFL declined the offer. For a variety of reasons — including the fact that he’d been ambushed at his home by ESPN’s Kelly Naqi based on a perceived leak from her husband, a former league-office employee who now works for the Jaguars — McNally didn’t want to submit to yet another face-to-face interview.
In hindsight, the Patriots should have encouraged McNally to do it. In hindsight, the Patriots also should have encouraged Tom Brady to surrender his text messages and emails for examination pursuant to the “extraordinary safeguards by the investigators to protect unrelated personal information.” It’s unclear whether cooperation on those points would have changed the outcome, but the outcome becomes easier for the NFL to defend by pointing to the separate violation arising from the failure to cooperate.
The failure to cooperate also makes it easier for the jurors in the court of public opinion to conclude that something unsavory occurred. Whatever the justifications at the time cooperation is refused, the perception once the dust settles is that someone who refuses to cooperate has something to hide.