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Tom Brady’s jersey may not have been stolen after all

Anybody seen a sweaty, No. 12 Patriots jersey? (Larry Busacca/Getty Images)
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The Case of Tom Brady’s Missing Jersey — or Jerseygate, if you please — rolls on.

An unnamed law-enforcement official has told TMZ that perhaps the No. 12 jersey Tom Brady wore in his historic Super Bowl LI victory was merely misplaced and not stolen. The Texas Rangers (see: Walker, not the MLB team) have been on the case since Brady discovered it was not where he had placed it in his bag, but now the thought is that perhaps someone in the locker room picked it up and threw in with the rest of the New England Patriots equipment, TMZ reported.

If the sweaty, dirty jersey was indeed plucked from the carry-on bag into which Brady said he had stuffed it, it may be with the rest of the Patriots equipment, which was loaded onto an 18-wheel truck that is destined to arrive Thursday at Gillette Stadium. The truck was not searched Sunday night in Houston so … maybe the jersey turns up after all.

All Brady knows is that he put jersey into his bag at his locker. “I went in to take my eye black off and they had opened up [the locker room] to, I don’t know, the media,” he said Monday on WEEI. “And I walked back to my bag and it was gone. Same thing happened two years ago [in the Super Bowl against Seattle]. That sucks, but, oh well.”

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There are no video cameras in the locker rooms, so there’s no way to trace the jersey that way. Since Sunday night, a number of resources have been devoted to find the shirt, which has drawn ridiculous valuations ranging up to $500,000. No auction house would sell something stolen; maybe this is like one of those priceless paintings that is stolen and never turns up. Because this is Brady and the Patriots, one conspiracy theory has it that this is a ruse because Brady wants this jersey, which is extremely special, for himself rather than see it going to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. For now, though, the search is hot.

“The Houston Police Department is the lead agency in the search for the missing Tom Brady jersey. We’re working in connection with the Texas Rangers [of the Texas Department of Public Safety], the NFL security department and NRG park security,” Houston Police Department Executive Assistant Chief G.T. Buenik said in a Tuesday news conference.

Buenik promised to “look at everybody that had access to that locker room” and, if that doesn’t work, he hopes someone who saw something calls a tip line.

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The New England Patriots rallied back from a historic deficit against the Atlanta Falcons to win Super Bowl LI during overtime on Feb. 5 (Video: Reuters)

Yahoo’s Charles Robinson compiled a Columbo-like timeline of the jersey’s travels … beginning with the moment when, immediately after game’s end, Brady took the shirt and his shoulder pads off and handed them to a team employee, who took them from the field to the locker room. Brady, like almost all the players, changed into a championship T-shirt for the podium ceremony on the field. At that point, only players, team officials and NFL employees were allowed inside the locker room. From Robinson:

• 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. [Central time], 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.

And with that, the search was on.