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NFL's Roger Goodell on the Browns and Pilot Flying J probe: 'We'll see how things unfold.'

Mar 26, 2014 -- 12:18pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

ORLANDO, FL

Haslam update: At NFL meetings this week, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam appeared relaxed and involved in every facet of his team.

Haslam’s “streamlining” of the organization on Feb. 11 resulted in two executives fired and three key team executives realigned to report directly to the owner – General Manager Ray Farmer, coach Mike Pettine and President Alec Scheiner – as opposed to one all-encompassing CEO.

This week Haslam interacted with owners and other league officials and also made an appearance with his wife, Dee, at the one social event open to media.

So there was no sign whatsoever that Haslam was on the verge of being served a federal indictment in connection with the ongoing FBI investigation of fraud at his Pilot Flying J family-owned company.

The investigation came to light as a result of a federal raid on Pilot’s headquarters campus in Knoxville, TN, on April 15. Ten employees of Pilot have pleaded guilty to federal charges since the raid. Some are cooperating in the investigation.

This week Haslam said he and his company continue to cooperate with federal authorities in the investigation, and “I would hope over a period of time could have a successful outcome.”

There is a strong feeling that if Haslam were served an indictment that he would have to step back and cede day-to-day representation as owner of the Browns to a family member. Reports of such a contingency plan in place have not been commented on by Haslam or the league.

At the conclusion of NFL meetings on Wednesday, Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “I don’t have any timetable that the federal authorities are working on, so I don’t have any inside knowledge of that in any way. But there’s been no reason for us to take any action like that. As of now, we don’t have any indication that will occur.

“But we’ll see how things unfold.”

Rules update: As expected, most of the rule changes considered this week were either tabled or voted down. Among the changes that were approved:

* No dunking: Dunking the ball over the goalpost after a touchdown is no longer permitted and will result in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Thank Saints tight end Jimmy Graham for this one. His dunk after a TD against the Falcons last year resulted in a 20-minute delay to repair and straighten the goalpost.

* Replay help: Any replay challenge will be reviewed immediately by officials at a “command center” in NFL headquarters, who then will consult with the referee to make sure he doesn’t blow the review.

* Higher target: Goalpost uprights will be extended five feet to a height of 35 feet so that field goal attempts can be judged better.

* Keep it running: The game clock will not be stopped after a sack. Previously, the clock was stopped after sacks in the final two minutes of a half.

* Experiment: The league will experiment for two weeks in preseason with the line of scrimmage for PATs moved back to the 20-yard line instead of 2. That will make extra points a 38-yard attempt.

* Crackdown: The league will institute an aggressive educational program to reduce taunting on the field and improve the workplace environment in locker rooms as a result of the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal.

Hawk report: Bears coach Marc Trestman coached Andrew Hawkins for two seasons (2009-10) with Montreal of the Canadian Football League. Here is what Trestman said about the 5-7, 175-pound slot receiver newly signed by the Browns:

“For me, it always starts in the locker room. Always a smile on his face, always positive, completely selfless in his demeanor and a fun guy to have around. On the field, he was solid.

“He was really our fourth receiver. We had a very good receiving corps, but he was unique because we had big receivers. We utilized him running the football, utilized him on the quick screens. His growth in route running has really improved since he’s gotten in the (NFL).

“He’s a guy you’ll be on the edge of your seat when he touches the football because he can turn a short throw into a big play. He’ll be a good teammate.

“He’s worked at it. He’s brought value to his skill set. And he’s a tough guy. He’s thick. He’s not small, so he can take the hits that you have to take in this league.”

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hastage #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

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