Tom Brady's Super Bowl LI jersey was likely stolen from his bag prior to media entering the locker room on Monday, according to multiple NFL sources who spoke to Yahoo Sports about the timeline surrounding the theft.
The investigation is inching forward between league officials, New England Patriots team security and Texas law-enforcement authorities. According to NFL sources, the theft is believed to have occurred between approximately 10:05 p.m. and 10:20 p.m. That 15-minute slot fell between Brady returning to the locker room from his MVP news conference and his eventual discovery that his No. 12 jersey was missing.
According to NFL sources, the majority of that time span occurred when the locker room was closed. During that closed period, the only individuals inside were Patriots players, team officials and employees, family of New England executives, NFL employees and security.
Multiple sources pieced together the timeline and whereabouts of Brady's jersey in the moments leading to the alleged theft. Among the key points:
• After the game ended, Brady was ushered to the on-field podium for the postgame victory celebration. Prior to climbing the podium, Brady handed off his shoulder pads and jersey to a team employee, who then delivered the items to Brady’s locker. At the time, the Patriots' locker room was closed. Only players, team officials and NFL employees were allowed inside.
• Following his podium appearance, Brady descended from the stage and met with his family, then was ushered by an NFL employee to his MVP news conference in the bowels of NRG Stadium. Brady departed that media session at roughly 10:05 p.m.
• Just after 10:05 p.m, Brady was taken to the locker room on a cart, driving by a line of media awaiting entrance to the locker room. He then entered the closed locker room, which sources said was filled with approximately 30 people – consisting of a mix of players, Patriots employees, family of team executives and NFL employees.
• Arriving to his locker, Brady found his shoulder pads and jersey waiting on a folding chair. He separated the two items, stuffing his jersey inside the personal carry-on bag that was sitting inside his locker. He then left his shoulder pads on the floor, where they were eventually collected by an equipment manager and placed into a large travel bag in front of his locker.
• At some point after separating his jersey and pads, Brady left his locker area and mingled with others in the still-closed room. At one point, he stopped to take a photo with family members of a Patriots executive, holding up five fingers to signify the team's fifth title. By this point, Brady had informed league officials that he wished to spend the rest of the night with teammates and family, and wanted to refuse additional media requests.
• Just before 10:17 p.m, the locker room was opened to the waiting media, which filed in and broke into groups to interview various players. Brady returned to his locker by 10:20 p.m and looked into the bag in his locker. At that time, reporters standing nearby heard him tell an NFL employee that his jersey was missing from his bag. Within minutes, Brady and equipment managers were searching through lockers and bags and other parts of the room to see if the jersey had been misplaced.
According to the NFL sources who spoke with Yahoo Sports, the Patriots didn't have any form of surveillance set up in the locker room. One source familiar with the investigation said Texas authorities were trying to determine if video existed showing walkways outside the locker room, although it's unknown what footage, if any, could aid security efforts.
About the only determination at this point is that the longest period of time that Brady's jersey would have been tucked away in a relatively private setting occurred during a 10-to-12-minute frame of the private locker room time. The remainder of unaccounted time – about 3-to-4 minutes – took place when the locker room was open to cameras and reporters. At this early stage, no media members have come forward to report seeing anyone in Brady's locker during that short period of time.
Since the theft occurred, the Houston police department has assigned the case to its major offenders division. NFL security and the Texas Rangers – the highest local law enforcement in the state – have also coordinated in an advisory capacity. The primary goal at the moment has been to determine who had access to the locker room period during the 15 minutes in which the jersey vanished. Because team and media credentials aren’t tracked, that could be virtually everyone who was granted locker room access as part of their game day credentials.
"Video might be the only thing that could show who went into the locker room [during that time]," said one source familiar with the investigation. "At this point, that might not even exist in a form that is helpful. Other video from [reporters] inside the locker room might be something [sought]. There may not be any video at all from the period of time before media got access."
It's a daunting task that could end with a significant piece of NFL history vanishing forever.
"Whoever took it has to be scared as [expletive]," said one NFL source involved with the investigation. "They had no idea what they were getting into. Now it's everywhere. If that thing is worth $500,000 like some people are saying, that's prison time. It might not even be easy to give it back at this point."
More from Charles Robinson, Yahoo Sports