Jim McNally, a Patriots locker room attendant, "tried to give the unapproved football to an alternate official who was in charge of the special teams footballs," according to the report.
The footballs used by the offenses are different from the ones used in the kicking game. Before the game, all balls are inspected by an official and marked to indicate that they have been approved. The ball McNally reportedly tried to insert into the game did not have that mark. ESPN's report does not note whether the ball in question was improperly altered in any way.
According to ESPN, McNally was interviewed by the investigators the NFL hired to look into allegations that the Patriots used under-inflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game against the Colts.
At a press conference on Jan. 24, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick attributed the low pressure levels of the footballs to atmospheric conditions. Quarterback Tom Brady denied altering the balls "in any way" on Jan. 22.
- Dan Gartland