Tom Brady and the New England Patriots 'probably' deflated balls
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was "generally aware" of a scheme to under-inflate the balls used by his team during an NFL play-off game.
A report has found some Patriots staff probably deflated balls in their 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts.
The Wells Report revealed it was "more probable than not" the Patriots deliberately used balls which were below regulation pressure limits.
It added Brady was "at least generally aware of inappropriate activities".
The NFL was investigating claims the Patriots had deflated match balls to give themselves an advantage in January's victory in Boston, which sent them to the Super Bowl.
According to reports, 11 of the 12 game balls they provided for the rain-affected match were under-inflated by about two pounds per square inch, consequently giving Brady more grip in the cold and wet conditions.
What has been said?
The 243-page report was compiled by NFL executive vice-president Jeff Pash and prominent attorney Ted Wells.
It concluded: "It is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the playing rules and were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules.
"Based on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of Jim McNally [the attendant in the officials locker room] and John Jastremski [equipment assistant] involving the release of air from Patriots game balls."
The report absolved other Patriots players and staff, as well as all coaches, including head coach Bill Belichick, and the team ownership.
What happened that night?
On 18 January in the Gillette Stadium, Colts linebacker D'Qwell Jackson intercepted a pass by Brady and tossed the ball to his team on the sidelines.
It was then that the matter of ball pressure first came up, conversations were had and officials got involved.
Rules state game balls must be inflated with between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds of air. Anything less, in theory, makes the balls easier to grip.
Who was involved?
The report highlights an exchange of colourful text messages between McNally and Jastremski in October 2014 and January which imply the pair worked together to deflate match balls for their star quarterback.
The messages also describe requests from McNally for shoes and signed footballs from Brady - a four-time Super Bowl champion and future Hall of Famer - in exchange for deflating balls.
What did the 'deflator' do?
Shortly before the match, four officials walked into the sitting room area of their locker room and were surprised that the match-ball bags were not there.
It later transpired that, 20 minutes before kick-off, McNally had removed the two bags of match balls from the locker room and was captured on a security camera walking into a bathroom with them.
The report says McNally, who described himself as 'the deflator' in text messages, locked himself in the bathroom for "approximately one minute and 40 seconds" before taking the bags to the field.
"McNally did all of this without the knowledge or permission of Walt Anderson or the other members of the officiating crew," the report said.
Did deflating the balls make a difference?
"They could have played with soap for balls and beat us," tweeted Colts tight end Dwayne Allen at the time. "Simply the better team."
The Patriots scored 17 points in the first half, when the balls were below their optimum pressure.
After the interval, when the balls had been re-inflated, they scored 28.
What happens next?
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said the league would consider possible disciplinary action and what rules, if any, need to be changed.
"At the same time, we will continue our efforts vigorously to protect the integrity of the game," he said.
Patriots chief executive Robert Kraft said he did not agree with the findings but would not challenge them.
"While I respect the independent process of the investigation, the time, effort and resources expended to reach this conclusion are incomprehensible to me," Kraft said.
"Knowing that there is no real recourse available, fighting the league and extending this debate would prove to be futile."