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Report: NFL Official Fired For Selling 'DeflateGate' Football For Personal Profit

BOSTON (CBS) -- Just when you thought the "DeflateGate" saga could not get any nuttier ... there's this.

An NFL official has been fired after he stole one of the footballs used during the AFC Championship Game and sold it for profit, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Schefter broke that news on ESPN on Wednesday afternoon, stating that the league employee had been in charge of collecting footballs so that they may be sold for charity. The investigation apparently revealed that this yet-to-be-named NFL employee had been selling footballs on his own for profit.

The information presents a challenge for the NFL as it attempts to uncover wrongdoing by the Patriots. Granted, an NFL investigation is not on par with a trial in the court system, but typically a development such as this one would damage the credibility of the investigation and tarnish the evidence so badly that the case could not continue.

Schefter's report comes on the heels of an Outside The Lines report which fingered the Gillette Stadium officials' locker room attendant for trying "to introduce an unapproved special teams football" to an official on the sideline. That football never made it into the game, but ESPN reports that the suspicious sideline activity triggered VP of game operations Mike Kensil to leave the press box at halftime to inspect the footballs himself.

Schefter noted on Wednesday that the ball which McNally handed to an official was actually given to McNally by another official.

This story has long been off the rails, but Wednesday may be its messiest day yet.

The footballs used in that AFC Championship Game, of course, were not inflated to the proper level, as set by the NFL rulebook. The Patriots -- namely Bill Belichick and Tom Brady -- have denied having anything to do with the PSI of those footballs, while team owner Robert Kraft said in Arizona before the Super Bowl that he expects the NFL to apologize for the damage it has done to the reputation of his team with this investigation.

Based on this new development from Schefter, it would seem as though that apology may indeed be coming.

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