So after 103 days, we get this?

Yes, the independent investigation into the accusation that the New England Patriots deliberately deflated footballs in their 45-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship said they did. Probably.

And Tom Brady knew about it. Probably.

But you wish the 243-page Wells Report would have been more definitive. Many fans in Patriots Nation will dismiss it as flawed – another attempt to diminish a fourth Super Bowl championship, another chance to equate the Patriots’ success with cheating.

But it doesn’t look good. Particularly for Brady.

“It is more probable than not,” the report reads, “that the New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules.

“In particular, we have concluded that it is more probable than not that Jim McNally (the Officials Locker Room attendant for the Patriots) and John Jastremski (an equipment assistant for the Patriots) participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the referee determined they were not below the league-mandated minimum of 12.5 pounds per square inch.

“Based on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady (the quarterback for the Patriots) was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.”

It is important to note that the report cleared Patriots owner Robert Kraft – who, by his comments, was clearly disappointed and disgusted with the report – head coach Bill Belichick and the rest of his coaching staff.

But Brady?

He is the face of the franchise, possibly the NFL. He has a squeaky-clean reputation. He is rich, he is handsome, he is married to supermodel Gisele Bundchen. On Saturday he not only attended the Kentucky Derby, but got on a jet and had a ringside seat at the Mayweather-Pacquiao Fight of the Century.

And now he will be associated with cheating.

Yes, the report doesn’t come out and say as much. Again, you wish it did. That it says he was “generally aware” of the deflation only fuels the speculation of what he actually knew. It also says that the investigators didn’t believe Brady.

The report states that because Brady’s name came up often in text messages between McNally and Jastremski. So, the report concluded, he must have been aware of what they were doing.

And those text messages – obtained from McNally’s and Jastremski’s cellphones – appear to be damning. It’s obvious by McNally’s sometimes-profane texts to Jastremski that he didn’t like Brady. It also was obvious that he expected to be compensated for what he did – in the form of sneakers or autographed items from Brady. There are also several mentions of a “needle” (which could be used to deflate the balls) that Jastremski supplied to McNally.

The investigators did not buy the explanation that they were joking with one another, especially since McNally calls himself “the deflator.”

McNally did receive sneakers – he calls them “kicks” in his text messages – for doing his job. And in the week before the AFC championship game he received autographed items from Brady, including footballs and a game-worn jersey.

Brady’s actions in the early days of the investigation also are troublesome. He told investigators that he didn’t know who McNally was, or what his title was with the team. Both McNally and Jastremski said Brady knew who McNally was and talked to McNally about how he wanted the footballs inflated.

And after the news broke Jan. 19, Brady called or texted Jastremski several times – after not communicating with him for the six previous months, according to evidence gathered from Jastremski’s cellphone. Brady would not turn his cellphone over to the investigators.

So what’s this mean for Brady and the Patriots? There are reports that the NFL is considering some sort of punishment. Suspension? Fine? Or is a tarnished image enough?

Clearly there are many in the NFL who think deflating a football is not that big of a deal. At the time the investigation started, several former quarterbacks said they did whatever they could to get the ball to feel right – altering it, inflating it, deflating it, scuffing it, whatever it took.

And, frankly, it should never have been that big a deal. It’s not about performance-enhancing drugs. It’s not about any of the other domestic ills hammering the NFL these days. It’s about air in a football.

But the NFL needs to protect its shield, its image.

Commissioner Roger Goodell always said this was about the integrity of the game. And now, at stake, is the integrity of one of its greatest players.

Brady’s father wasted no time Wednesday defending his son in an interview with USA Today’s Jim Corbett. “I don’t have any doubt about my son’s integrity,” he said. “Not one bit.”

But now, there is doubt in some minds.

Just like in the report.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.