BOSTON (CBS) — On Thursday afternoon, Bob Kravitz broke a gossipy story about a former NFL official who was always suspicious about Jim McNally and the way he handled the footballs for the Patriots. According to the official, Mark Baltz, the officials locker room attendant “always” asked for the footballs long before he was supposed to have them, thus leading to suspicions that he doctored the footballs in some way for Tom Brady.
Despite the story having some glaring factual errors — namely, Baltz claiming to have worked between 10 and 15 games in Foxboro, despite his game log showing just six career trips — it did reveal one very, very interesting nugget.
Baltz said he complained to the NFL years ago about McNally, reporting the locker room attendant for “running” onto the field with the footballs and interacting with Brady and Bill Belichick.
“I reported him to the league, but never got any reaction from them,” Baltz said. “I don’t think they thought it was a big deal at the time.”
Now the story gets interesting. According to Pro Football Reference, the referee with whom Baltz most often worked was Bill Leavy. And in that Week 7 game last season when the footballs were found to be inflated over 16 PSI (well above the league-mandated 12.5-13.5 PSI), Leavy was the referee. In fact, in two games in 2010 — a narrow Patriots win over the Ravens, and the playoff loss at home vs. the Jets — Baltz worked on Leavy’s crew.
Leavy was interviewed by Ted Wells, but his testimony does not appear once in the 243-page report.
It is that information that caught de facto DeflateGate expert Michael Hurley’s eye, and caused Felger & Massarotti to have him join the program.
“I’ve blamed officiating incompetence for those 16 PSI footballs in Week 7,” Hurley said, noting that he figured Leavy provided a “willy-nilly” approach to setting the inflation level of the footballs. “But this sort of adds an intriguing wrinkle. According to Baltz, he’s all over this suspicious McNally fella, which I believe. … Now Bill Leavy is no longer an NFL referee. And, to tie it all around, Bill Leavy was interviewed by Ted Wells’ team and we don’t know what he told them.”
Tony Massarotti found it awfully suspicious.
“[Ted Wells] talked to [Leavy], and there’s no comment from him at all in the Wells report that the league edited,” Mazz said.
“That’s the story,” said Hurley. “You want to make DeflateGate into this giant story, you want to make this to be the biggest offense ever, and we’re going to get first-round picks and millions of dollars, we’re going to get the quarterback out of here. But this guy reported Jim McNally to the league years ago for the same suspicions, and the league did nothing.”
Why didn’t we hear from Leavy in the Wells report, Felger asked.
“Because it’d make the league look bad. Because they knew about these suspicions. The league was told about it six years ago and did nothing?”
Mazz summed it up: “I want to hear from Bill Leavy. I want to hear what that freaking guy has to say. He’s got info. He knows where the balls are buried.”