The NFL fined the Cleveland Browns $250,000 and suspended general manager Ray Farmer four games for the 2015 NFL season for the "Textgate" scandal where Farmer allegedly texted Browns coaches in at least four games last season. This is a violation of the league's policy on electronic devices.
The NFL has fined the Cleveland Browns $250,000 and suspended general manager Ray Farmer for four games.
NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent issued a statement on the Browns' official website on March 30, saying the team violated the league's policy on electronic devices:
"The use of a cell phone on multiple occasions during games in 2014 by Cleveland Browns General Manager Ray Farmer was a violation of NFL rules that prohibit certain uses of electronic devices during games. Based on these violations, the Browns have been fined $250,000 and Ray Farmer will be suspended without pay for the first four regular-season games of the 2015 season.
"The suspension will start on midnight of the Sunday preceding the Browns' first regular-season game and will end immediately after the Browns' fourth regular-season game. During the period of the suspension, Farmer cannot be involved in any club matters and is prohibited from being at the Brown's offices, practice facility or at Browns games.
"There was no evidence in the NFL's review that Browns ownership or any other team executives had knowledge of the prohibited conduct. Once the violation was discovered, Browns management implemented new processes to ensure future compliance.
"We appreciate the courtesy and cooperation the Browns organization extended during our inquiry."
According to a source who told The Northeast Ohio Group's Mary Kay Cabot, the NFL originally was considering forfeiting a draft pick (possibly a fourth-rounder) but eventually held back.
Cabot says the league spared the Browns from giving up a draft choice "possibly because the texts to coaches were opinions not designed to give them a competitive advantage, and the fact that Farmer acted alone."
Had the Browns lost a fourth-round draft pick, it would have made a significant impact. Tight end Jordan Cameron, wide receiver Travis Benjamin and cornerback Pierre Desir were all fourth-rounders who made big contributions to Cleveland's cause, per The Northeast Ohio Media Group.
Cameron has since agreed to sign a two-year, $15 million deal with the Miami Dolphins on March 12, per NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport (via NFL.com's Chris Wesseling).
Cabot's source told her Farmer texted coaches in at least four games during the 2014 NFL season. Some of his messages went to Browns quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, who was not sanctioned by the league.
A March 30 ESPN update says Farmer's texting "continued at least until quarterback Johnny Manziel got his first start in Week 15."
Farmer's messages were mainly about "quarterback play, second-guessing of play calls and use of personnel," per ESPN.
With the length of Farmer's suspension already determined, Cabot points out he can still have a say in the Browns' roster decisions at the end of August. However, he will not be around in September when many transactions take place. Cabot also foresees Farmer missing a part of the NFL's trading period which ends in late October.
Nonetheless, The Northeast Ohio Media Group update says Farmer will be able to prepare for the upcoming NFL draft next month. Cleveland has a total of 10 draft picks, with two (12th and 19th overall) coming in the first round.
Browns executive chief of staff Bill Kuharich and vice president of player personnel Morocco Brown will most likely take over in Farmer's absence, per Cabot.
For his part, Farmer issued an apology on the Browns' official website:
"I respect the league's decision and understand that there are consequences for my actions. Accountability is integral to what we are trying to build and as a leader I need to set the right example. I made a mistake and apologize to Jimmy Haslam, Mike Pettine, our entire organization and our fans for the ramifications.
"Learning is a big part of who I am and I will certainly be better from this situation."
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam also chimed in on the situation, per ClevelandBrowns.com:
"We accept the league's ruling. Ray made a mistake and takes full responsibility for his role in violating the policy. It is critical that we make better decisions. Ray has tremendous integrity and I know has great remorse for what occurred.
"We are all committed to learning from this and making the Browns a stronger and better organization."
Browns head coach Mike Pettine, who was unhappy when Farmer began texting his coaches, told ESPN during the NFL owners meetings he and Farmer have already sorted things out.
"We both feel like we're very much on the same page and we're moving forward to make this team better," Pettine quipped.
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