(SportsNetwork.com) - The NFL-appointed attorney who led the investigation over deflated footballs in the AFC Championship game defended his probe as impartial, a response to claims by the New England Patriots and the agent for quarterback Tom Brady that it was one-sided and unfair.
Ted Wells said Tuesday that the conclusions in his report "represent the independent opinions of me personally and my team."
"We made a fair and reasonable review of the evidence and we reached conclusions based on the preponderance of the evidence standard," Wells said.
"Those conclusions were not influenced in any way, shape or form by anyone at the league office," he added.
Brady was suspended four games without pay and the Patriots were fined $1 million and docked two draft picks by the NFL on Monday. The penalties were based on findings in the Wells report, which was issued last week after a four-month investigation.
The report found there was a "deliberate effort" by two Patriots employees to release air from footballs prior to the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts in January.
It found Brady was "generally aware" that locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski were letting the air out of balls, but uncovered no evidence that Patriots ownership, head coach Bill Belichick or the team's head equipment manager knew of the practice.
The league suspended Brady for what it called "conduct detrimental to the integrity of the NFL." His agent, Don Yee, said he is appealing.
The Patriots beat the Colts 45-7 and went on to win their fourth Super Bowl in the Brady-Belichick era, stunning the Seahawks in the final minutes after two weeks of speculation about the AFC title game.
Yee criticized the Wells report last week as having "significant and tragic flaws" and called Brady's suspension "ridiculous" and illegitimate.
He called the Wells report "unfair" and said it raised more questions about the NFL for what he called the league's lack of "standards or protocols" in how footballs are handled before games.
"In my opinion, this outcome was pre-determined; there was no fairness in the Wells investigation whatsoever," Yee said. "There is no evidence that Tom directed footballs be set at pressures below the allowable limits. In fact, the evidence shows Tom clearly emphasized that footballs be set at pressures within the rules."
The Wells report found Brady didn't cooperate with the investigation, refusing to produce any relevant emails or texts. He provided testimony the report said contradicted other evidence.
Yee raised questions about the report's integrity and said Brady cooperated fully. He said the report "presents significant evidence the NFL participated with the Colts in some type of pre-AFC Championship Game planning regarding the footballs."
"This fact," Yee said, "may raise serious questions about the integrity of the games we view on Sundays. We will appeal, and if the hearing officer is completely independent and neutral, I am very confident the Wells report will be exposed as an incredibly frail exercise in fact-finding and logic."
Wells hit back, saying no one ever raised questions over his integrity until after the report was finished.
"When I was appointed to be the independent investigator, no one at the Patriots or in Mr. Brady's camp raised any issue about my independence or my integrity to judge the evidence impartially and fairly," Wells said.
Brady's four-game suspension is twice the length of the penalty handed out by the NFL last year after then-Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice struck his now-wife in an Atlantic City elevator.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was widely criticized over the penalty, especially after video surfaced of Rice hitting the woman in the face, and he later said he "didn't get it right" when he suspended Rice two games.
Rice was later suspended indefinitely, but won an appeal to be reinstated on the basis that he was being penalized under a revamped personal conduct policy that wasn't in effect when the incident occurred.