And the Patriots complied! Ballghazi by this point is a stacked farce, where every new outrageous development only serves to obscure why we were supposed to be outraged in the first place. But one very paradoxical question still looms large: If the Patriots, as they maintain, shouldn’t be punished because there’s no evidence their equipment staff deflated footballs, why did the Patriots suspend the two staffers accused of the deflation?

Locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski—The Deflator and Dorito Dink—were suspended indefinitely by the Patriots on May 6, upon the release of the Wells Report but nearly a week before the NFL’s announcement of discipline for the Patriots and for Tom Brady. McNally and Jastremski (Tuesdays this fall, on TNT!) were thrown under the bus by Brady during the investigation, but it does seem odd that the Patriots acted before they had to, and didn’t leave the punishment to the NFL.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter has an answer:

For those asking why Patriots suspended two employees if those two did nothing wrong, as New England claims: NFL asked Pats to suspend them prior to discipline being handed down, per a league source in New York. New England obliged with the NFL’s request.

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This just raises a whole bunch of questions. Why would the NFL request an immediate suspension for these two rather than wait the five days until it sorted through and issued official punishments? (Was the league worried they would sneak into Gillette and deflate a bunch of balls?) And why on earth would the Patriots sign off on it?

The only way things make sense is if everyone had already decided that McNally and Jastremski (“turn in your badge and gun!”) would be useful patsies here, and take the fall for anyone of consequence. Perhaps the NFL believed shitcanning the two of them would show how seriously it took this case, and the Patriots believed this sign of cooperation would result in a slap on the wrist. Scapegoating peons is the American way, after all.

So where did things go wrong? Is it possible the NFL was truly blindsided when the Wells Report turned up strong evidence of concerted wrongdoing, and had to come down hard on the Patriots despite their preemptive sacrifice? No matter who screwed what up along the way, the upshot was the Patriots making themselves look guilty, and the NFL making its in-house justice system look even worse than usual. Imagine real cops or prosecutors telling a private business, We’re not done with our investigation yet, but you go ahead and punish those two low-level employees now, just in case.

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The only way we’ll ever find out exactly what went down is if Robert Kraft sues the NFL. Please sue, Bob. Ah, he’s not going to sue:

McNally! Jastremski! It’s all on you two, now. Show your old bosses just what a pair of Dorito Dinks can do.

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