FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) The NFL said the New England Patriots can reinstate the two employees at the center of what a league investigation found was a scheme to use improperly inflated footballs in the AFC championship game.
Equipment assistant John Jastremski and officials locker room attendant Jim McNally were reinstated Wednesday after the team requested they be allowed to return.
''The Patriots have satisfied the league's requirements for reinstatement and the league has granted permission for the employees to return,'' the league said in a statement.
The NFL launched a months-long, multimillion dollar investigation after finding the footballs supplied by the Patriots for the AFC title game against Indianapolis were inflated below the league minimum. In one of the more damning pieces of evidence, McNally referred to himself as ''the deflator.''
In its report, the league said it was more probable than not that McNally and Jastremski ''participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee.'' The report also found that Brady ''was at least generally aware'' of the scheme.
The Patriots have insisted that neither they nor their employees did anything improper in the scandal that came to be known as ''Deflategate.'' But NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell fined the Patriots $1 million and took away two draft picks, including a first-rounder, and suspended Brady four games.
Brady's suspension was vacated by a federal judge, who ruled that it exceeded the penalty allowed by the collective bargaining agreement. The NFL has appealed.
The Patriots suspended McNally and Jastremski, and the league said they must apply before the two employees could be reinstated and could not return to their former responsibilities. The team confirmed last week that it had applied for reinstatement.
Patriots spokesman Stacey James would not elaborate on what role McNally and Jastremski would have for the team.
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