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Mortensen’s original story still has the 11-of-12 footballs falsehood

On Monday afternoon, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen appeared on ESPN Radio’s Dan Le Batard Show to elaborate on the report that sparked the neverending #DeflateGate investigation and arbitration and, now, litigation.

Our preliminary item on the interview appears here. The good folks at MassLive.com have typed up the entire transcript. The good folks at TheBigLead.com have posted the audio, along with their own informative assessment of the interview.

Courtesy of the good folks at Deadspin.com, who haven’t ripped me recently but, oh, it’s coming, comes an intriguing nugget that cuts against the notion that Mortensen changed his story from “11-0f-12 footballs were two pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum” to “11-0f-12 footballs were significantly underinflated.” Apparently, his official story hasn’t changed.

From the item posted at ESPN.com on January 21, 2015, the first sentence: “The NFL has found that 11 of the New England Patriots’ 12 game balls were inflated significantly below the NFL’s requirements, league sources involved and familiar with the investigation of Sunday’s AFC Championship Game told ESPN.”

And then the second sentence, still present in the story and not removed: “The investigation found the footballs were inflated 2 pounds per square inch below what’s required by NFL regulations during the Pats’ 45-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, according to sources.” (The “below what’s required” phrase should pull the plug on efforts to explain away the erroneous information given to Mortensen as referring perhaps not to the balls being two pounds below the 12.5 PSI minimum but two pounds below the 13.5 PSI maximum.)

Then there’s the original tweet, which is still live, and which could be removed at any time by pressing the three little dots and then selecting “Delete Tweet.”

Mort, who I like and respect, continues to be in a very tough spot on this one, and privately he should be livid with those who lied to him on multiple occasions about the 2.0-pounds information, and about other things. For months, it appeared that the glaringly false leak that instantly converted an odd circumstance into presumed Patriots guilt never would become the focus of national scrutiny.

It now has, and the early consensus is that even though Mortensen has explained the situation more extensively than ever, real questions remain regarding the origin of the report -- and a real reason continues to exist for the NFL to investigate itself.

If finding out whether someone in the league office had received a copy of the Ray Rice elevator punch video before TMZ leaked it merited the hiring of former FBI director Robert Mueller, the much simpler task of finding out who talked to Mortensen can be accomplished with someone having a far less impressive pedigree, and a far lower hourly rate.

So why won’t the league do it?