The investigation is being led jointly by NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash and Ted Wells of the law firm of Paul Weiss. Mr. Wells and his firm bring additional expertise and a valuable independent perspective. The investigation began promptly on Sunday night. Over the past several days, nearly 40 interviews have been conducted, including of Patriots personnel, game officials, and third parties with relevant information and expertise. We have obtained and are continuing to obtain additional information, including video and other electronic information and physical evidence. We have retained Renaissance Associates, an investigatory firm with sophisticated forensic expertise to assist in reviewing electronic and video information.

The playing rules are intended to protect the fairness and integrity of our games. We take seriously claims that those rules have been violated and will fully investigate this matter without compromise or delay. The investigation is ongoing, will be thorough and objective, and is being pursued expeditiously. In the coming days, we expect to conduct numerous additional interviews, examine video and other forensic evidence, as well as relevant physical evidence. While the evidence thus far supports the conclusion that footballs that were under-inflated were used by the Patriots in the first half, the footballs were properly inflated for the second half and confirmed at the conclusion of the game to have remained properly inflated. The goals of the investigation will be to determine the explanation for why footballs used in the game were not in compliance with the playing rules and specifically whether any noncompliance was the result of deliberate action.

“It’s obvious that Tom Brady had something to do with this,” Aikman told KTCK-AM in Dallas on Thursday morning. “For the balls to be deflated, that doesn’t happen unless the quarterback wants that to happen, I can assure you of that.”

Many sports writers point out that it was especially tough to believe that Brady – who says he is meticulous about the condition of the footballs and all the equipment he uses – could not be aware of the balls’ feel during the title game.

Said Sports Illustrated’s Michael Rosenberg: “Maybe a manager did it on his own, maybe there was a porcupine in the ball bag. But Brady — Tom Brady, the same extremely competitive, detail-oriented man who helped lobby the league to allow quarterbacks to supply their own footballs — didn’t notice they were under-inflated.”

“I listened to Bill Belichick and I believed every word he said,” eight-year NFL pro Matt Leinart told The Post. “Not once did a head coach ever have any input in that. It’s strictly a quarterback-to-equipment-manager thing and that’s pretty universal. Those are the only two guys that have any part of that process.

“You go through the whole bag and you literally handpick them and say, ‘This one is good, this one’s too hard, put a little bit of air in that one, take a little bit out. … It’s a full 20-minute process to make sure on Sunday you have the exact football you want to be throwing. Quarterbacks are very, very picky about how they want their ball and that goes on everywhere.”…

Nevertheless, Ravens defensive end Chris Canty — whose team lost to the Patriots in the AFC divisional round — thinks it is just another example of New England’s willingness to do anything to gain an unfair edge.

“The Patriots are habitual line-steppers,” Canty said while appearing on NBCSN on Wednesday. “If the allegations are true, then you are talking about attacking the integrity of our game and I have an issue with that.”

The “Deflategate” controversy in New England resurrected questions former Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney had about the Patriots after losing Super Bowl XXXVIII…

“There isn’t a day that goes by since [then] that I haven’t questioned … that there were some things done that might have been beyond the rules that may have given them a three-point advantage,” Hurney said during his radio show.

“And I can’t prove anything, and that’s why I’m very angry. And the anger has come back over the last couple of days that commissioner Roger Goodell decided to shred all of the evidence after ‘Spygate,’ because I think there were a lot of things in there that would bring closure to a lot of people.”…

“This is about a culture. Is there a culture of cheating at probably what most people look at as the best franchise in the National Football League?

The fanboy narrative is that “everybody does it.’’ You’re not trying if you’re not cheating. Folks are just jealous of the Patriots’ success.

Swell. But if you are a Patriots fan, you cannot be satisfied with this explanation. If you walk into your local 7-Eleven and see the back page of the New York Post screaming, “CHEATERS,’’ you cannot make it all go away by claiming jealousy…

Did deflating footballs ever give the Patriots an illegal advantage in any of their close games? Did it help them win the division 11 times in 12 years? We know they don’t like to play on the road. In the playoffs. Ever. This great Patriot dynasty has not won a road playoff game in seven years.

Forget about the Colts game. Did a deflated ball make the playing field uneven in any games this year? Did it result in a home-field advantage that they would not have otherwise owned? How does the legion of Patriot toadies defend this?

[N]ot all cheating is nutty, even when you’re confident. There are those who by constitution and character will continue to press, seeking every possible edge. It never made sense that Dennis Kozlowski and Mark Swartz, both more than handsomely compensated, would loot Tyco to the tune of some $150 million, but the jurors convicted them of doing just that. Sometimes you do it because you can get away with it.

Part of the problem is that we have been down this road before. We know that the Patriots seek every edge. They find subtle ideas in the rule book that nobody else seems to figure out. And they’ve broken the rules, too. The league mysteriously destroyed all the evidence from the Spygate scandal, when the team was found to have used cameras to try to observe their opponents’ hand signals, but the memories of fans are long.

So are the memories of non-fans. I am willing to bet that there are plenty of people out there who couldn’t care less about football, but whose first impression on hearing the story was something along this line: “Oh, the Patriots, right, I’ve heard of them. Haven’t they been caught cheating before?”

Who Said It?

For a little Friday fun, see if you can pass our “Who Said It: The Obama White House or New England Patriots?” quiz.  Below are eight statements that refer to either DeflateGate or one of the Obama administration scandals.  Can you guess who said each of the following in response?…

“I was shocked to learn of the news reports… I had no knowledge whatsoever of this situation until Monday morning.”

“I first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this.”

“We learned about them through the reports… That is when we learned about them.”

The major takeaway of the press conference is that, according to Brady, no one from the NFL has interviewed him. This is simply mindboggling. Because of the way footballs are handled pregame, the quarterback would be the most essential source of information in the event irregularities occur. Brady is thus the first person the NFL should have spoken with if the league really wanted to get to the bottom of what happened…

There are very few people who handle the balls or might influence how they are handled between the time they are chosen and the time they are used in a game: the starting QB, the equipment manager, the ball boy(s), the referees, and the coaches. That means a competent investigation to get to the bottom of this growing controversy could be completed in a few hours – meaning, it should have been done by now. Plus, if you need to talk to the QB, you do it before he has to start ramping up his prep for the Super Bowl – meaning, between Monday and Wednesday of this week. You don’t wait until now, when he is turning his focus to the game.

If the NFL wanted to interview Tom Brady, it would have been done already. Football turns out to be a lot like politics: Officials avoid information because if they learn something bad has been done, they are expected to do something about it.

[T]he same NFL that threatens to suspend Marshawn Lynch for flamboyant footwear could issue the proverbial slap on the wrist to the Pats: “If any individual alters the footballs, or if a non-approved ball is used in the game, the person responsible and, if appropriate, the head coach or other club personnel will be subject to discipline, including but not limited to, a fine of $25,000.” Roger Goodell, whose disciplinary judgment is something less than Solomonic, may well avoid doing anything that could adversely affect February 1’s big game.

The NFL has rules upon rules upon rules. Professional football in the United States might be the most painstakingly regulated sport in history — and, increasingly, the rules most zealously enforced are those that don’t seem to matter

The law, as Saint Paul suggested, was a matter of both letter and spirit. But our over-inflated regulatory state, with its bloated bureaucratic class, has all but forsaken the latter, while our puffed-up executive has utterly abandoned the former. At one and the same time, our land of laws, not men, grows impulsively legalistic and alarmingly lawless.

More and more, though, cheating in sports has been about securing small advantages. Such items include baseball teams positioning people in the bleachers with binoculars to steal the opposing team’s catcher’s signals to his pitcher. Or basketball players flopping to the floor in the hope of attracting charging fouls. Or tennis players trying to slow an opponent’s momentum by toweling off after every point. Or scuffing baseballs with emery boards or using Vaseline, spit or other substances to alter the flight of pitches. Under-inflating footballs is a new twist in a long tradition of taking small but real advantage. Some might think it gamesmanship. It’s cheating…

Low stuff, all of this, but now an integral part of sports, professional and amateur, and none of it likely soon to go away. Behind much athletic cheating is the hope for victory, and victory brings, along with glory, greater proceeds: in richer contracts for athletes, in bigger gate and television receipts for college and professional teams. When Don Ohlmeyer, the TV-sports producer, once was approached by a journalist who announced that he had a question to ask, Mr. Ohlmeyer is reputed to have replied: “If your question is about sports, the answer is money.”

Cheating in sports has no doubt always existed, but as the money involved has increased, so too, it seems, has the temptation to do anything to win. Along the way, athletic contests have largely lost what used to be called sportsmanship. If fairness supplied the ethics of sports, sportsmanship supplied the morality. If competition gave sports its pleasure, sportsmanship—utter fairness and generosity of gesture under the pressure of competition—is what gave sports its grandeur. Many young athletes today may not even have heard of sportsmanship, so far submerged is it in the consciousness of players and fans alike. Athletes may be bigger and stronger, fleeter and in many ways more sophisticated, but without sportsmanship they are diminished to being jocks, and jocks merely. Sad.

This is about as weak as sports scandals get. All teams, all quarterbacks, doctor footballs to their liking. Eli Manning’s game balls take months to scuff up just right. Aaron Rodgers inflates his as much as possible. Brad Johnson, who led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl title in 2002, claimed he paid a couple of guys $7,500 to secretly scuff up the footballs used in the championship game.

Like doctoring baseballs, the practice of tinkering with pigskins is widespread and commonly accepted as just something everyone does. The only rule: Don’t get caught…

All the pearl-clutching is even more galling when you consider we’re talking about the NFL here. This is a sport where dudes ravage their brains and bodies in between Bud Light commercials, all for a league that is comically indifferent to violence both on and off the field. Deflating a few footballs is hardly on the same moral plane as, say, domestic abuse and a front office coverup of it…

Given the Patriots’ villain status and history of circumventing the rule book, it’s understandable that Deflatgate would balloon into a major issue ahead of the Super Bowl. But that does not mean the story should be accompanied by overwrought ravings about how, to quote one insane screed, “Winning without honor, without integrity, is not winning.”

Via RCP.