According to multiple reports the “main source” for ESPN’s inaccurate report that 11 of 12 New England Patriots footballs used in the AFC Championship Game was NFL Vice President of Game Operations Mike Kensil.
Kensil, who previously worked for the New York Jets, had also been the driving force behind the initial Deflategate investigation and allegedly passed along faulty info to ESPN, including network insider Chris Mortensen. Here’s what you need to know about Kensil, his history in the league and NFL “sources”:
1. Patriots Sources Claim Kensel Told the Teams Equipment Manager He Was in ‘Big Fu—-g Trouble’ During the AFC Championship
Kensil has been a major player in the entire Deflategate storyline from the get-go and has frequently been referred to as the driving force behind the initial investigation into the Patriots.
CSN New England reported that Kensil had apparently suspected the Patriots of tampering with footballs even before the AFC Championship game, something the Wells Report backed up with an e-mail that Colts equipment man Sean Sullivan had sent to the team’s GM Ryan Grigson. That e-mail was then forwarded to Kensil and Dave Gardi, another NFL VP of Game Operations.
It’s gets even more dramatic though. Sports Illustrated‘s Greg Bedard wrote this May that Kensil’s halftime reaction was more than a little surprising. He wrote that Kensil walked up to Patriots equipment manager on the sideline at halftime and said, “We weighed the balls. You are in big f—— trouble.”
New England and Robert Kraft believed that moment, on the sideline no less, showed more than a little bit of bias by the league and were disappointed that it wasn’t explored more in the Wells report.
2. Kensil Was the New York Jets Director of Operations for Nearly 20 Years
Kensil has a bit of history with the New England Patriots. Or rather, with the New England Patriots staff.
Prior to rising to the league level, Kensil was the Jets Director of Operations for nearly 20 years. His tenure with the team overlapped with Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick’s time with the Jets and he was part of the New York front office that was slightly to moderately enraged when Belichick resigned as the team’s head coach.
Kensil left the Jets organization in 2006 and while his professional reputation is strong, there have still been plenty of questions about his motivation in the Deflategate investigation.
3. ESPN’s ’11-of-12′ Report Was Released Shortly After the AFC Championship Game
ESPN published Chris Mortensen’s “11-of-12” report the Wednesday after the AFC Championship game, a story that suggested the Patriots intentionally deflated the footballs used in the game. The report added that the footballs were 2.0 pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum.
That report, and the information, was, apparently wrong.
The current theory, which was echoed by Patriots owner Robert Kraft earlier this week, is that the NFL, led by Kensil, deliberately leaked false information to Mortensen. Even if that isn’t entirely true, the NFL failed to dispute or even attempt to correct the incorrect report. As far as the Patriots are concerned the incorrect information in the report cannot be overstated, putting the entire organization in a corner, trying to defend itself.
4. ESPN’s Adam Schefter Suggested Mortensen Received False Information
Of course, the NFL hasn’t publicly commented on the idea that the league may or may not be feeding false information to a prominent reporter and, by extension, the public. But there has been one person willing to discuss the issue; ESPN reporter, and Mortensen’s fellow NFL insider, Adam Schefter.
Appearing on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan show on Thursday, Schefter addressed the criticism surrounding the “11-of-12” report, saying:
And I don’t know the particulars of what happened. I really don’t, OK?. But I can tell you this, somebody wanted information out. You’re blaming him. But I will say this. Number one, I’m sure he has an explanation. Number two, any reporter in the country, if they have high level people calling them, giving them this information, almost anyone’s gonna run with it. If that is indeed the case that one, two, three high-level individuals intentionally misled him to try to smear the Patriots, I saw more shame on those people than Mort.
ESPN, the network as a whole, has yet to officially address the inaccuracies in the report.
5. Mortensen Dropped Out of a Radio Appearance on Friday
Well, that’s one way to comment on the situation. Mortensen was scheduled to appear on the WEEI show Dennis & Callahan, the same show his colleague Schefter appeared on earlier this week, for a 7:45 a.m. appearance on Friday but cancelled.
Mortensen released a statement to the station about his decision to opt out:
You guys made a mistake by drumming up business for the show and how I would address my reporting for the first time. I will not allow WEEI, [Patriots owner Robert] Kraft or anybody to make me the centerpiece of a story that has been misreported far beyond anything I did in the first 48 hours. Maybe when the lawsuit is settled, in Brady’s favor, I hope, we can revisit. Don’t call.
They did call. Mortensen didn’t answer.