Lawyer Ted Wells defended his investigation into the New England Patriots’ use of deflated footballs, saying the probe was both thorough and independent of the NFL’s influence.

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The man the league hired to head its Deflategate investigation has broken his silence.

Lawyer Ted Wells defended his investigation into the New England Patriots’ use of deflated footballs during last season’s AFC Championship Game, saying the probe was both thorough and independent of the NFL’s influence.

Wells responded to claims made by Tom Brady’s agent, Don Yee, who attacked Wells’ integrity and objectivity in regard to the investigation. Yee described the report as “an incredibly frail exercise in fact-finding and logic” after the league announced the quarterback’s four-game suspension Monday.

“I think it’s wrong to question my independence because you don’t like my findings,” Wells said Tuesday during a conference call with media. “Mr. Yee is Mr. Brady’s agent and is trying to do his job. But I totally reject any suggestion I wasn’t independent.”

Wells, his voice frequently rising during the session, said his findings would have been strong enough to convince a jury under the “preponderance of evidence” standard used in many civil cases.

Wells released his report last Wednesday, asserting it was “more probable than not” Brady “was at least generally aware” of plans by two team employees to prepare the balls to his liking, below the league-mandated minimum of 12.5 pounds per square inch.

“What drove the decision in this report is one thing: It was the evidence,” Wells said. “I could not ethically ignore the import and relevancy of those text messages and the other evidence.”

Wells specifically mentioned two series of text exchanges between officials’ locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski.

In one, McNally referred to himself as “the Deflator” and joked about going to ESPN. In another, Jastremski mentioned speaking to Brady the previous night, saying the quarterback knew McNally was stressed out by needing to deflate the balls.

“That is not circumstantial evidence,” Wells said. “That is two of the participants in a scheme discussing what has taken place.”

Wells also said there was no effort by the league to smear Brady’s reputation.

“All of this discussion that somewhere people at the league office wanted to put some kind of hit on the most iconic, popular player in the league, the real face of the league, it just doesn’t really make any sense,” he said. “It’s really a ridiculous allegation.”

To Yee’s assertion he omitted key statements from Brady, Wells challenged the agent to release his full transcript of the interview.

Brady plans to appeal his suspension. The Super Bowl champion Patriots were penalized $1 million — matching the largest in league history — and docked two draft picks.

Wells said the Patriots were cooperative, with two major exceptions: declining a request for a second interview with McNally, and Brady’s refusal to turn over phone records.


• Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said the league is more concerned with air in footballs than the Washington Redskins’ “racist” name.

Reid, speaking on the Senate floor, said he wished commissioner Roger Goodell would act as swiftly to change a name that denigrates Native Americans as he did about “enough air in a football.”

• Despite a season-ending injury, rookie defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. has a fully guaranteed contract.

Fowler signed his four-year, $23.5 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The deal is fully guaranteed and includes a $15.3 million signing bonus.

Former Florida standout Fowler was the third player drafted last month. He tore a ligament in his left knee during the first hour of rookie minicamp Friday.

Beforehand, Fowler signed an injury-protection waiver that guaranteed the Jaguars would negotiate in good faith.