(Photo courtesy of New England Patriots)
TALK OF FAME NETWORK
WTHR.com sports columnist Bob Kravitz helped get the "Deflategate" ball rolling with his spot-on reporting hours after the conclusion of the AFC championship game in January -- a game where the Colts claimed footballs used by the New England Patriots that night had been tampered with before the game.
Now Kravitz is adding an interesting twist to a story the NFL would rather see go away.
Only 24 hours after the NFL reinstated Patriots' equipment man John Jastremski and game-day locker room attendant Jim McNally, who were alleged by the league to have conspired with quarterback Tom Brady to deflate balls the Patriots used that night, Kravitz posted a startling story about Indianapolis-based former NFL official Mark Baltz. He told Kravitz he was not surprised when he heard McNally’s name involved because he’d long suspected him of being up to no good.
“He always asked for the footballs way, way before he was supposed to get them,’’ Baltz told Kravitz the week before McNally was reinstated.
“If he could get them 10 or 15 minutes before he was supposed to get them, instead of the usual two minutes before the game – and there were some crews that let him do that – he would do it. I wouldn’t let him take them early, and I think he eventually figured that out because he stopped asking after a while. I probably did 10-to-15 games up there (in Foxboro, Mass.), and those first few times, he’d always ask. I always thought it was very suspicious. He certainly acted in a suspicious manner.’’
A quick check with pro football reference's data base, however, found that Baltz worked only six games in Foxboro since 1999, and only four were when Brady was quarterbacking the Patriots. McNally reportedly did not become the officials' locker room attendant until 2008, which would likely have reduced their interaction.
Kravitz said Baltz told him he’d reported McNally to league officials “six or eight years ago,’’ because of his concerns not only about his early requests for the footballs, but for the way he operated before and during games.
“For an officials’ locker room attendant, I always thought he was an unusual dude,’’ Baltz said. “Most locker room guys, they sit there. And if you need something, they got it for you. When you left the locker room, you’d lock the door, and they’d stay right there. The other 31 teams, that’s what they would do. That was his job.
“But McNally, he was running all around like a chicken with his head cut off. Asking for the balls early. What I specifically reported him for several years ago, and I thought this was really unusual, he’d run out on the field with the footballs before the game -- and the next thing you know, he’s playing pitch-and-catch with (Tom) Brady. Then, next thing, he’s on the sidelines right next to (Bill) Belichick, like he’s a (bleeping) assistant coach or something."
Although McNally has been reinstated, he no longer will be allowed to work as a locker-room attendant or handle equipment. It is unclear what his game-day role may be.
“He (McNally) was always worried about the footballs,’’Kravitz quotes Baltz saying. “Always. It was very odd. I reported him to the league, but never got any reaction from them. I don’t think they thought it was a big deal at the time. But (McNally) did things that 31 other locker-room attendants don’t do.
“I think McNally did his homework and knew which crews he was dealing with and which crews he could get over on. `Are the footballs ready yet? Are the footballs ready.’ I’d tell him, `Yeah, they’re ready, but when we get out on the field, you can have them.’ Obviously, there were a lot of times when he’s gotten them early and had the time to let some air out of the ball, or whatever he was doing with them. All I know is, when he got them (the footballs), he would run. He would take off. Whether he was going somewhere and letting air out, I’m definitely suspicious. But I don’t know for sure.’’
Who knows what it means but Kravitz’s latest reporting will only add fuel to the suspicions that continue to spin around the Patriots in the wake of “Spygate’’ and now “Deflategate.’’