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NFL punishes Falcons and Browns for rule violations

Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer answers a

Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer answers a question during a news conference at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015. Photo Credit: AP / David J. Phillip

Two "Gates" have been closed. One big one remains open.

While the NFL issued its sentences against the Falcons and the Browns on Monday for breaking league rules - the Falcons pumped artificial noise into their stadium during games in 2013 and 2014 while Browns general manager Ray Farmer sent texts from the press box to the sideline during games - the investigation into the violation that has created the most buzz continues.

It's been over two months since the NFL began investigating "DeflateGate," the use of under-inflated footballs by the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. Attorney Ted Wells is heading that investigation.

As for the Falcons and Browns, they were hit with fines and suspensions. The Falcons also lost a draft pick.

The Falcons acknowledged that they used pre-recorded crowd noise at home games. NFL rules state that "at no point during the game can artificial crowd noise or amplified crowd noise be played in the stadium." The Falcons were fined $350,000 and will forfeit a fifth-round draft pick in 2016.

"Anytime there are actions that compromise the integrity of the NFL or threaten the culture of our franchise, as this issue did, they will be dealt with swiftly and strongly," Falcons owner Arthur Blank said in a statement, adding that the team will not appeal the ruling. "I apologize for any embarrassment this situation has caused the NFL, our fans, and our Falcons players and associates."

The league found that the front office of the Falcons had no knowledge of the practice, but it suspended team president Rich McKay from the competition committee, for which he had been a co-chairman. McKay is eligible to apply for reinstatement to the committee as of June 30, but his suspension comes at an important time for the committee. It is expected to provide NFL owners with a proposal to revamp the extra point in mid-May after discussions about the play at last week's league meetings.

The league also announced that the Falcons' former director of event marketing, Roddy White, was responsible for the noise violation and, had he still been an employee of the Falcons, would have been suspended without pay for eight weeks. He's been fired by the Falcons. That suspension still could be enforced if White obtains employment with another team. (He is not to be confused with the longtime Falcons wide receiver of the same name).

As for the Browns, they were fined $250,000, and Farmer is suspended without pay for the first four weeks of the upcoming regular season. Farmer was in violation of NFL rules that prohibit certain uses of electronic devices during games. The league said that its investigation found that neither Browns ownership nor any other team executives had knowledge of Farmer's actions.


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