Legendary NFL Writer Peter King Opens Up About Deflategate Reporting and His Biggest Regret

Legendary NFL columnist Peter King admitted his reporting on the New England Patriots' Deflategate scandal is the biggest "regret" of his career.

Nine years after its inception, Deflategate is back in the news. And we have Peter King to thank.

A day after announcing his retirement, the legendary NFL columnist admitted his reporting on the infamous New England Patriots scandal is the biggest “regret” of his career.

Quick Deflategate History Lesson

By now, you know what happened with Deflategate. Well, sort of.

Tom Brady and the Patriots were accused of deflating game balls for their 2014 AFC Championship Game matchup with the Indianapolis Colts. New England silenced some critics two weeks later with a victory in Super Bowl XLIX, but the scandal lingered long afterward.

Following a prolonged legal battle with the NFL, Brady was suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season. The Patriots, who were docked two draft picks, won the Super Bowl that season, too.

Whether Brady was guilty remains up for debate, as does whether the alleged infraction was even a big deal. But what’s inarguable is the major role of public perception, which was influenced by reporting mere days after the 2014 AFC title game.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that 11 of the Patriots’ 12 game balls were “significantly underinflated” by at least two pounds per square inch. The public and media at large ran with the report, and the Patriots were powerless to stop the backlash.

But Mortensen’s report was incorrect. In fact, the NFL’s own hired attorney, Ted Wells, eventually revealed that none of the Patriots’ balls were more than 1.6 PSI below the legal threshold.

To this day, we don’t know whether the NFL — executive Troy Vincent reportedly was Mortensen’s source — deliberately misled Mortensen. But we do know the league was aware the information was false and still intentionally withheld it from the public.

One could argue the NFL’s transgressions were far more severe and problematic than anything done by Brady and the Patriots.

Peter King Opens Up on Erroneous Deflategate Reporting

King also played a significant role in the backlash against New England.

Working for Sports Illustrated at the time, King corroborated Mortensen’s erroneous report. The error still haunts him, as he revealed Tuesday during an appearance on CBS Sports’ “Maggie & Perloff” show.

“Probably the biggest mistake I made in my career, that I regret to this day, and when I think about it, my heart sinks, is I confirmed the ESPN story about the deflated footballs after Deflategate first hit the scene,” said King, who’s from Massachusetts.

“It was a Monday night, and I called two people who I was sure would know exactly what happened. And they both confirmed the ESPN story. And, so, I wrote it, talked about it. And it turns out I was wrong. And that brought me a lot of shape.

“That really bothers me to this day that I was wrong because it doesn’t matter who I talked to. It doesn’t matter who told me anything. It’s my rear end on the line when I say something, when I confirm a story. And I was wrong. And that’s something that will haunt me. Really, it bothers me to this day.”

King then offered his own opinions on Deflategate and the involved parties.

“I’ve always thought … that was Roger Goodell killing an ant with a sledgehammer,” King said. “Because, I wrote this at the time, that Tom Brady, for the previous 10 years … when he had home games, his equipment guys had control of the footballs. And when you go on the road, your equipment guys didn’t have control of the footballs.

“I figured out his passer rating in away games and in home games over that 10-year period. And it was something like 99.8 to 99.5 — it was the same. It was the same. And what really ticked me off about that … it didn’t mean anything in the first place, and second of all, you don’t have absolute proof that (Brady) did have something to do with it.”

King added: “That always really bothered me a lot. Both ways: Me screwing it up, and, I think, the NFL screwing up the discipline.”

Chris Mortensen Also Regrets Deflategate Reporting

King’s admission arrived over six years after Mortensen delivered his.

In 2017, Mortensen, who waited months to delete his initial Deflategate tweet, discussed his infamous report. And he delivered the comments during an appearance on King’s podcast.

A day after the 2014 AFC title game, Mortensen texted a source after first hearing about the Deflategate allegations. The source responded with, “11 of 12 balls, two pounds under.”

“Which kind of got my attention,” Mortensen said on the podcast. “So I pick up the phone and call that person, and basically was like, ‘I’ve told you what I can tell you.’ That was a very brief conversation. … I called somebody else I trust practically more implicitly than the (initial) person who provided that information and certainly should have knowledge.

“We probably talked for 15 to 20 minutes, and he basically advised, ‘I would just stick with ‘significantly underinflated.’ So, the two pounds disappeared from the conversation, but it still stuck with me. … This person also said, ‘Well, there’s a lot more that went on Sunday.’

“But this person confirmed the 11 footballs. My focus really were on the 11 footballs, so I went ahead and called the news said and said, ‘Here’s what I’ve got. I really should file something.’ The normal cautious Chris Mortensen would’ve stopped and said, ‘What don’t I know about this story?’ But I went ahead with it.”

Mortensen then was asked whether he regretted the reporting.

“Yeah, I do,” he said.

KEEP READING: Peter King Hints That No. 1 Pick in 2024 NFL Draft May Still Be Up for Grabs

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