Kelly Naqi, the reporter for ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” who wrote the story claiming Patriots locker room attendant Jim McNally gave a referee an unapproved kicking football during the AFC championship game, joined Middays with MFB on Wednesday morning to discuss the latest allegation.

Kelly Naqi

Kelly Naqi

Kelly Naqi, the reporter for ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” who wrote the story claiming Patriots locker room attendant Jim McNally gave a referee an unapproved kicking football during the AFC championship game, joined Middays with MFB on Wednesday morning to discuss the latest allegation. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Naqi, a Rhode Island native and Boston College graduate, said she is not implying that her report is proof of a wider conspiracy following the initial Deflategate accusations, although she said NFL investigator Ted Wells “is looking into this.”

“This is a whole separate issue,” she said. “I do not know if this is the same locker room attendant who reportedly stopped in the bathroom on the way to the field with the game balls. This person, who is a strong person of interest, I don’t know if it’s the same person. I do know that it is, as you a said, a separate issue.

“This officials locker room attendant, whose job it is to oversee the officials locker room — to get them food, to get them whatever they need — I was told it was atypical for an officials locker room attendant to be on the sideline during an NFL game, to be right in the team box area, which is between the 30-yard line and the 30-yard line.

“You can’t introduce a ‘K’ ball into the game. There’s a ‘K’ ball official for that. It’s an alternate official who’s assigned to playoff games. … During the playoffs, the NFL has one if its alternate NFL officials oversee the kicking balls. McNally, for reasons which we don’t know, we don’t speculate on it, but he went up to the alternate official who in the AFC championship game was an NFL back judge named Greg Yette, and he tried to introduce a ball that had not been pre-approved into the kicking game.”

Asked if the new football was not properly inflated, Naqi said she does not know.

“Not marked, that’s all I know,” she said. “The referee marks all the game balls and all the kicking balls that can go into the game. What marks Walt Anderson, the referee, used, I have no idea. Was it his initials? was it a stamp? I have no idea. But that is how the alternate official knows for a fact that these balls are approved to be used in this AFC championship game. From what my sources tell me, Jim McNally, the officials locker room attendant, went over to Greg Yette — who has not commented to me — went over to Greg Yette and handed him a ball to try to get it into the kicking balls rotation and get it to be used in the game.”

Naqi said she does not have the information about when in the first half this incident occurred, nor is she trying to make it part of a bigger picture.

“I am making no speculation,” she said.” All I’m saying is this: The officials locker room attendant clearly knows that this ball was not approved for use in the AFC championship game. Yet he tried to hand it to the ‘K’ ball official to get it put into the game. That is literally all I am saying. I don’t know if it was before the Patriots were trying to kick a field goal, I don’t know if it’s before the Colts were trying to have a kickoff, I don’t know if it’s the other way around. I never made any reference to the timing of the game because I don’t know that.”

That said, Naqi noted that this incident might have been the impetus for NFL vice president of game operations Mike Kensil testing all the balls at halftime.

“My sources say it was a data point that was used,” Naqi said. “I don’t know if it is the sole reason. I can only go off of what my sources have specifically told me, and it was a data point that inspired him to go down at halftime. … I just know that this was a factor. Was it an added factor? Maybe. I know it was a factor.”

Naqi said she’s been working on this story for about three weeks and attempted to interview McNally, traveling to New Hampshire to try to talk to him in person, but McNally said he could not talk and asked her to leave. She said she has “no agenda” and is not looking to make any broader implication.

“This is something that we take very seriously,” she said. “It’s not like I wrote this story and pushed a button and put it on ESPN.com. It went through a lot of layers.”

Added Naqi: “All I can do is report the facts, and people can interpret them however they want. I don’t want to go down any road of insinuation or innuendo or putting my own spin on it. I literally just report the facts, and people can interpret them or continue to report, if they’re other journalists, and see what more can come of it. I’m still working on this story as well. But I’m not going to not report facts that I know because of how people may or may not take them.”

For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning to discuss the latest Deflategate news. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Mike Florio

Mike Florio

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning to discuss the latest Deflategate news. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

An ESPN report Tuesday indicated that Patriots locker room attendant Jim McNally attempted to submit an unapproved kicking ball to an official during the first half of the AFC championship game. It’s not clear what advantage the Patriots would have been trying to gain by this action.

“My first reaction was ESPN’s been grinding away to try to put more meat on the bone, and this is all they have?” Florio said. “It really doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that anyone’s going to stand up and say, ‘Aha! This is the smoking gun that everyone’s been waiting for.’ And we may be waiting for it forever. There may never be one. At some point there’s going to be a report issued by Ted Wells that’s going to have all the facts in there.

“I was not surprised there has been no tangible developments in more than a couple of weeks. But I look at it and I say, yeah, this is completely different than deflating footballs, and … this is the result of an effort by ESPN to find anything they can to report on the topic.”

The Patriots reportedly believe that NFL vice president of game operations Mike Kensil is aggressively pursuing accusations against the Patriots because of his past history as a longtime Jets executive.

“I know the Patriots believe that Kensil has that bias and he’s been looking for something to stick to the Patriots,” Florio said. “It doesn’t speak well of the league office if there are employees who are allowed to act out on these agendas from past team relationships. And Kensil’s dad was at one point the president of the Jets, too. When you work for the league office, you become Switzerland. Otherwise you’re going to have these situations arise and even if Roger Goodell had no involvement in it, this all ends up on his desk and he’s the one who’s going to have to find a way through it.

“And here’s the reality: It very well could be that Kensil was acting out on a vendetta against the Patriots but also tripped over something that the NFL now has to deal with. I just hope that the NFL — as it should have done in the Saints bounty case and as it should do in every future case where there’s an allegation of cheating — broaden the lens and satisfy itself that this in an aberration, that other teams don’t do this, before hammering any one franchise. I think the NFL’s approach is, ‘When we catch somebody we’re going to nail ‘em, no matter how widespread this practice may be.’ ”

Asked what he thinks the ultimate result will be, Florio said he does not expect the Patriots will face any punishment.

“I think that there’s a good chance the end result’s going to be that there’s no evidence that there was any deliberate tampering with the footballs,” Florio said. “But we don’t know, and I assume we will know, what Ted Wells finds when he interviews people. When he interviews the guy who took the 12 Colts and 12 Patriots footballs into the bathroom for 98 seconds — the guy that, according to the NFL media, was ‘elderly.’ Was it McNally, who’s 48? And if he’s elderly at 48 I’ve got a problem.

“And this whole thing, ‘a few ticks under,’ that was a mess of a report from Ian Rapoport, all due respect — well, there was the insult — but it was. No specificity, no precision. And I was told in the aftermath of that that he’s just wrong. But we’re going to know, in Ted Wells’ report, what the PSI’s were registered at, what they were measured at at halftime of the game. But if Mike Kensil’s the one who was measuring the PSI’s and recording them there’s going to be that inherent possibility of some sort of bias and either intentional or accidental mismeasurement of the PSI.

“At this point it’s too early to know, but I would not be surprised if the end result is, through the NFL’s investigation and scientific efforts to duplicate the atmospheric conditions of the Patriots’ ball preparation, that there’s inconclusive evidence of intentional tampering.”

For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar
Jimmy Garoppolo participated in the NFL combine last year and the Patriots selected him with their second round pick. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Jimmy Garoppolo participated in the NFL combine last year and the Patriots selected him with their second round pick. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The NFL combine is set to kickoff Wednesday in Indianapolis where the top college prospects will workout in front of hundreds of scouts, team executives and coaches, as organizations continue their preparations for the draft, which is scheduled for April 30-May 2 in Chicago.

With the Patriots holding their Super Bowl victory parade just two weeks ago Wednesday, their staff has some catching up to do when it comes to looking at players outside their organization and coming from the college game. In fact, some members of the organization who usually attend the combine will not attend because of their recent workload with the long season.

Here are five things to look for from a Patriots perspective at the combine:

1. Who from the Patriots organization is attending?

Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio and his team will have a heavy presence, who even with the Super Bowl run have been hard at work looking ahead to 2015. Coach Bill Belichick will be in attendance, as will former offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who was spotted on a flight with Patriots staffers from Boston to Indianapolis on Tuesday. Scarnecchia, who retired at the end of the 2013 season, also attended the combine last season, and had a sizable impact in the Patriots selecting rookie center Bryan Stork in the fourth round.

The combine is usually the first time coaches and general managers speak after their respective seasons wrap up, but don’t expect to hear from Belichick or Caserio. Neither are scheduled to speak, but Belichick wasn’t scheduled to speak last year and he did (Don’t hold your breath this year). New England will surely come up with other coaches and general managers, especially following their Super Bowl win and all things Deflategate related. Some notables who are speaking Wednesday are: Broncos coach Gary Kubiak, Bills coach Rex Ryan, Ravens coach John Harbaugh and Jets coach Todd Bowles. Then on Thursday: Colts general manager Ryan Grigson, Colts coach Chuck Pagano and Broncos general manager John Elway. On Friday Seahawks coach Pete Carroll will speak.

2. On field workout schedule

Friday, Feb. 20: Specialists, offensive linemen, tight ends
Saturday, Feb. 21: Quarterbacks, running backs wide receivers
Sunday: Feb. 22: Defensive linemen, linebackers
Monday, Feb. 23: Defensive backs

This is where the players complete their drills including: 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, three cone drill and the shuttle run.

3. Positions, players to watch

From a Patriots perspective, it’s unlikely they will be taking a skill player (quarterback, running back, wide receiver) high in the draft, so from both a viewing and a team perspective, they will be paying attention more so on Friday, Sunday and Monday, specifically Friday and Sunday. Their top two positions of need would seem to be offensive and defensive line. With the Patriots having the last pick in both the first and second round (No. 32 and 64 overall) they likely will not have some of the top players at those positions available when they select. With that in mind, here are some names from those positions to keep an eye on:

Offensive line: Andrus Peat, Stanford; Cedric Ogbuhei, Texas A&M; T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh; Josue Matias, Florida State; Ereck Flowers, Miami.

Defensive line: Malcom Brown, Texas; Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma; Michael Bennett, Ohio State; Carl Davis, Iowa; Ellis McCarthy, UCLA.

4. Incomplete workout, no problem

Over the years the Patriots have targeted some players with injury history with their top picks in the draft. Two of their last three first round picks haven’t done 100 percent of the workouts at the combine because of injury (Dominique Easley and Dont’a Hightower). Overall, since 2010, the Patriots have made 14 first or second round picks — of those, eight didn’t complete 100 percent of combine workouts due to injury. Tavon Wilson didn’t attend the combine at all, while Rob Gronkowski, Brandon Spikes and Aaron Dobson were some of the players who didn’t attempt all of the workouts because of injury.

What this means is just because a player doesn’t attempt all the workouts, don’t count them out from being drafted by New England. The Patriots have had a long history of going after players with injury history, as usually their stock falls and the Patriots look to take advantage — Gronkowski being a prime example.

5. Combine isn’t everything

Just because a player doesn’t attend the combine, that doesn’t mean they won’t be a successful player for the Patriots or in the NFL in general. There are plenty of players who don’t get invites to the combine and turn out to be very good pros. A few players on the Patriots currently who weren’t invite to the combine include: Julian Edelman, Kyle Arrington, Malcolm Butler and Sebastian Vollmer. And here are a few NFL players who weren’t invited to the combine: wide receiver Victor Cruz, wide receiver Doug Baldwin, tight end Antonio Gates and wide receiver Wes Welker.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

There is now a likely explanation for why there was such a delay at the start of the second half of the AFC championship between the Patriots and Colts at Gillette Stadium last month.

Bill Belichick spent significant time leading up to the Super Bowl trying to explain Deflategate.  (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Bill Belichick spent significant time leading up to the Super Bowl trying to explain Deflategate. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

We know know why there was such a delay at the start of the second half of the AFC championship between the Patriots and Colts at Gillette Stadium last month.

According to a report from ESPN’s investigative unit “Outside the Lines” 48-year-old Patriots locker room attendant Jim McNally has been identified as the person responsible for attempting to introduce an unapproved special teams football into the AFC Championship Game.

ESPN spoke with four sources familiar with the investigation into Deflategate. It is not clear whether McNally’s attempt to introduce a kicking ball is related to the accusation of deflating footballs that were checked into the game by referee Walt Anderson.

One source told ESPN that McNally, the attendant assigned to the officials’ locker room, has been interviewed by investigators for Ted Wells, the attorney the NFL hired last month to lead an investigation into allegations the Patriots intentionally used under-inflated footballs on offensive plays in the first half of that game against the Colts, won by the Patriots, 45-7.

Additionally, three sources told “Outside the Lines” that McNally has worked Patriots games for a decade, and has been in charge of the officials’ locker room at Gillette Stadium since at least 2008. In the first half of the AFC Championship Game, McNally tried to give the unapproved football to an alternate official who was in charge of the special-teams footballs. Those footballs are known as “kicking balls” or “K balls.”

Before every NFL game, footballs are inspected and measured by NFL officials in their locker room before they can be approved for in-game use. The “K balls” are used for special teams, and not by the offenses of either team.

Here is more from ESPN “OTL” reporter Kelly Naqi Tuesday night:

NFL officials put a special mark or stamp on each ball approved for use on offensive possessions, as well as the “K balls” used on special teams, to ensure only properly inspected and approved footballs are used in that game. Walt Anderson, the referee for the AFC title game, had personally inspected and marked each of the footballs that were approved for use in that game.

The alternate official, Greg Yette, became suspicious when he noticed that the football McNally handed him did not have the proper markings on it, three sources say. One of those sources added that Yette found it surprising that the officials’ locker room attendant was on the field, trying to hand him a ball, since officials’ locker room attendants don’t typically have ball-handling responsibilities during NFL games. Once McNally tried to introduce the unapproved football into the game, the source says, Yette notified the NFL’s Vice President of Game Operations, Mike Kensil, who was at the game in the press box.

Sources say they are not sure at what point during the first half McNally tried to introduce the impermissible football to Yette. They didn’t know his motivation for doing so, either. Yette, when reached by Outside the Lines, declined to comment.

An Outside the Lines reporter approached McNally at his home earlier this month, but he said, “I can’t talk to you,” waving the reporter away as he walked up his driveway. It’s unclear if McNally, who lives in Amherst, New Hampshire, is hired only to work on game days for the Patriots.

McNally is a part-time employee who was hired by The Kraft Group, a company owned by Patriots owners Robert Kraft. Kelly Way, the director of operations for TeamOps at Gillette Stadium, says NFL game-day employees are paid by The Kraft Group. McNally is not listed in the Patriots’ main switchboard directory.

It is not known if McNally is the same locker room attendant who reportedly ducked into a bathroom with a bag of footballs for 90 seconds before taking them out to the field before the start of the AFC Championship Game. On Jan. 26, FoxSports.com’s Jay Glazer reported that a locker-room attendant from the Patriots allegedly took footballs “from the officials locker room to another area” on the way to the field, and Wells’ investigators have video of that. Glazer later reported that the attendant stopped in a bathroom with the game balls for 90 seconds. That locker room attendant, according to Foxsports.com, is a “strong person of interest.”

The Patriots, who won the Super Bowl over the Seattle Seahawks Feb. 1, came under scrutiny prior to the AFC Championship Game, when the Colts reportedly alerted the NFL that the Patriots may be using underinflated footballs in games.

A source told Outside the Lines that Kensil decided to personally go down to the officials’ locker room at halftime of the Patriots-Colts game to check the game balls, in part, because of the suspicions McNally’s actions raised.

Kensil did not respond requests for comment but it has also been reported that the Colts noticed an underinflated football after an interception by linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. Jackson said at the Pro Bowl that he didn’t notice that the football was underinflated. Also, Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, told 60 Minutes Sports that Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson told league officials in the second quarter of the AFC Championship game that the Patriots might be tampering with footballs.

One source said Kensil personally checked each of the PSI (pounds per square inch) levels of the 12 footballs the Patriots had for use on offense and that 11 of those 12 were under-inflated by “one to two pounds.” They were re-inflated to the League-required level and were returned for use in the second half.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has attributed the 11 under-inflated game balls to atmospheric conditions and has said the Patriots “try to do everything right; we err on the side of caution.” Team owner Robert Kraft, in a strong defense of his head coach and quarterback Tom Brady, said: “I want to make it clear that I believe unconditionally that the New England Patriots have done nothing inappropriate in this process or are in violation of NFL rules.”

He added “I would expect and hope that the League would apologize to our entire team” if the Wells investigation “is unable to definitively determine that our organization tampered with the air pressure in the footballs.”

The NFL hired Wells on Jan. 23 to lead an investigation into Deflategate. In a statement released late last month, Wells said he expected his investigation to go on for “at least several more weeks” and asked that “everyone involved or potentially involved in this matter avoids public comment concerning the matter until the investigation is concluded. The results will be shared publicly.”

Dean Blandino, the NFL’s head of officiating, said at a Super Bowl news conference: “There was an issue that was brought up during the first half, a football came into question, and then the decision was made to test them at halftime. There’s an investigation going on, I can’t really get into specifics.” When asked for comment by OTL, Blandino texted, “I can’t elaborate with the investigation still ongoing.”

The NFL, though a spokesman, told OTL: “We’re not commenting on the details of the ongoing investigation.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Dante Scarnecchia remains an advisor to the Patriots, even in retirement. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Dante Scarnecchia remains an advisor to the Patriots, even in retirement. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The man who left the Patriots offensive line in the hands of Dave DeGuglielmo is still helping out where he can.

According to multiple reports, Dante Scarnecchia was on a flight from Boston to Indianapolis on Tuesday for the start of the NFL combine workouts in Indianapolis.

It was Scarnecchia who told the Boston Herald before Week 4 that he had faith that the offensive line would eventually gel and work well together. That faith was really tested when the Patriots, after Scarnecchia’s pronouncement, went out and were trounced 41-14 by the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sept. 29.

The key point to that gelling came with the insertion of rookie center Bryan Stork, a move that actually occurred in Kansas City, during the loss to the Chiefs. Stork was one player Scarnecchia referred to the Patriots after scouting him after retirement.

As it turns out, Scarnecchia, who retired from his offensive line job after the 2013 season, is still helping out, scouting players and advising Bill Belichick and the coaching staff. He’ll get that opportunity again this week.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

In what could be a precursor of the tone of talks with the Patriots, Darrelle Revis looked at 2014 as a one-year deal to earn a long-term commitment from the Patriots.

Bill Belichick and Darrelle Revis celebrate after Sunday's win over the Seahawks. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick and Darrelle Revis celebrate after Sunday’s win over the Seahawks. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

In what could be a precursor of the tone of talks with the Patriots, Darrelle Revis looked at 2014 as a one-year deal to earn a long-term commitment from the Patriots. Of course, as Jets owner Woody Johnson learned after the season, the superstar shutdown corner is actually signed for 2015 at a $20 million price tag.

According to Pro Football Talk, Revis was thinking along the same lines as Johnson when he actually inked the contract with the Patriots in March 2014.

All of this began last March when the Buccaneers cut him, realizing they didn’t want to give up a high draft pick to the Jets and pay a $1.5 million bonus. Bill Belichick hopped on the chance quickly to get the shutdown corner he desperately wanted to upgrade from the departed Aqib Talib.

The contract, when it was first reported, was for one year, with a handshake agreement that the two sides would both revisit in March 2015. But that was not the case. The Patriots and Revis came to agreement on a second season. That second season provided a degree of insurance for both player and team, at a cost of a $20 million payout for the ’15 season to Revis if a long-term deal could not be struck.

From the perspective of Patriots team president Jonathan Kraft, it’s a placeholder, as he told WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan after the Super Bowl win over the Seahawks.

But according to Pro Football Talk, that was not the understanding Revis had.

Revis and his representatives Schwartz & Feinsod felt the second year was designed to allow the Patriots to divide the signing bonus over two years, for cap purposes. In other words, either sign a new contract with the Patriots or be released by March 9 and sign a new deal elsewhere. The placeholder concept, according to PFT, was a bit of a curveball.

The $20 million is fully guaranteed but would preclude him from signing a multi-year deal at the top of his game in free agency that could be worth two or three times that amount on the open market. In a sense, the Patriots have a built-in, negotiated franchise tag of their own with Revis.

A complicated story is sure to have more twists and turns before the two sides come to an agreement on what’s next.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia