Haslam returns to Browns facility amid fraud probe

    2013-04-18 19:38

BEREA, Ohio (AP) - Amid a deepening fraud investigation involving his truck stop empire, Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam III joined his football operations staff at work Thursday to prepare for their first draft with the franchise.

Haslam, who purchased the Browns for $1.05 billion in October, arrived in Cleveland three days after FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents executed four search warrants at his Pilot Flying J company headquarters in Knoxville, Tenn.

According to an FBI agent's affidavit released Thursday night, an employee of the company told authorities that Pilot Flying J CEO Haslam knew about rebate fraud at the truck stop chain. Haslam's family - including his brother, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam - owns 59 percent of the business.

Haslam wasn't made available to the media by the Browns, but did release a statement.

``I've read the affidavits,'' Haslam said. ``I now understand more clearly the questions the federal investigators are exploring. I maintain that the foundation of this company is built on its integrity and that any willful wrongdoing by any employee of this company at any time is intolerable.

``We will continue to cooperate with the federal investigation and continue our own investigation in these allegations. I value the relationships we have with our customers, our vendors and our team members across this country and regret that they have to go through this with us, but I trust and believe their faith in this company and its principles has never been misplaced.''

While the federal investigation into Pilot Flying J continues, Browns CEO Joe Banner said Haslam has jumped right back into his football job. Cleveland has the sixth overall pick in the NFL draft.

``This is the first year Jimmy has really owned the team and has the chance to put his imprint on it, so I think he's excited in general,'' Banner said. ``We're glad to have him here. He asks good questions. He's a good asset to have as an owner.

``Jimmy isn't in there, watching film (of potential draft picks), but he's very involved with our entire process.''

At a Tuesday press conference in Knoxville, Haslam revealed the government is investigating rebates offered by the truck stop chain, but said, ``We believe we did nothing wrong.'' His family - including his brother, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam - owns 59 percent of the business.

Haslam added that he has not been subpoenaed and no Pilot Flying J employees have been arrested, but subpoenas were issued to several members of the company's 23-person sales force.

``Jimmy made a statement about that the other day, and there's not much I can add to it,'' Banner said. ``Everything I can and want to say about this, I already have. I can tell you that the Browns' operations are the same as they've always been.''

Haslam's visit coincided with the third and final day of Cleveland's first voluntary minicamp under new coach Rob Chudzinski. Former Philadelphia Eagles executive Banner and general manager Michael Lombardi also are in their initial season with the Browns, who went 5-11 last year and have not made the playoffs since 2002.

``Jimmy has said it himself, he's an impatient person,'' Banner said. ``He's going through the same thing we're all going through, trying to balance the need to win now with our plan of building a team that can sustain long-term success. We don't want to have a team that makes the playoffs once, then falls back out of contention for a number of years.''

The first step toward Cleveland achieving that goal is the draft, which takes place from April 25-27. Lombardi indicated the Browns' top priorities are a pass rusher and a cornerback, but would not rule out picking a quarterback to compete with incumbent Brandon Weeden and recent signee Jason Campbell.

``It certainly is all about fit,'' said Lombardi, who previously worked with Banner in Philadelphia and spent the last five seasons as an NFL Network analyst. ``Like every year, there are some quarterbacks that do some positive things, but it comes down to terms of value with the pick.''

Assistant general manager Ray Farmer and Chudzinski will be seated with Haslam, Banner and Lombardi at the head table in Cleveland's draft room. None were part of the organization at this time last year, when team president Mike Holmgren, general manager Tom Heckert Jr., and coach Pat Shurmur ran the process for then-owner Randy Lerner.

``Joe and I have sat in the room before,'' Lombardi said. ``It's football. It's just football. Coach Chud has handled that, and (Joe) has handled it, as well. You have to work out every player in the draft and you better know them all.''

Banner said the Browns' plan is ``to build a consensus'' when they go on the clock, rather than taking a vote on which player to draft in the first round. Cleveland does not have a second-round selection, making it essential to hit on its opening pick.

No one in the organization is more aware of that than Haslam, who is an avid football fan and a major supporter of the University of Tennessee's team.

``Jimmy is very excited, which is why he'll be with us for the next two days, as scheduled all along,'' Banner said, indirectly referring to the Pilot Flying J situation. ``He'll also be here almost all of next week, and of course for the draft itself.

``There is a lot of pressure - mostly self-imposed, really - for us to be successful. Jimmy is a big part of our efforts to do that.''

NOTES: The Browns held a two-hour morning practice outside under sunny skies. The temperature was 74 degrees. ``We've got a little Cleveland sun and a Lake Erie breeze today,'' Chudzinski said. ``I'm glad we got out here.'' The first two minicamp sessions were held inside the Browns' fieldhouse because their four grass fields were recently aerated. ... NFL veteran Shayne Graham and undrafted rookie Brandon Bogotay shared the kicking duties, but neither is guaranteed of a roster spot in the regular season. ``We'll continue to look at the kicker position going forward and see what other guys are out there,'' Chudzinski said. Phil Dawson was Cleveland's kicker from 1999-2012, but signed with San Francisco after the Browns did not offer him a contract.

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Sean LeeOct 5 06:42p

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee (concussion) is feeling better but will have to pass all of his concussion tests before he is cleared to play again, according to head coach Jason Garrett.

Lance DunbarOct 5 06:42p

Dallas Cowboys RB Lance Dunbar (knee) will miss the rest of the 2015 season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in Week 4. He scheduled [ More ]

Ronnie BrownOct 5 05:32p

Free-agent RB Ronnie Brown (Chargers) re-signed with the San Diego Chargers Monday, Oct. 5, according to a source. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Andrew LuckOct 5 05:12p

Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck (shoulder) is expected to play in the Week 5 game against the Houston Texans Thursday, Oct. 8. Luck has a slightly separated throwing shoulder [ More ]

Sammy WatkinsOct 5 04:42p

Buffalo Bills WR Sammy Watkins' (calf) status for the Week 5 game against the Tennessee Titans is uncertain at this point, according to head coach Rex Ryan. 'He looked [ More ]

Jordan ReedOct 5 04:42p

Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed's (concussion, knee, ankle) head injury is a real concern, according to head coach Jay Gruden. Reed has a long history of head injuries dating [ More ]

Daniel FellsOct 5 04:42p

New York Giants TE Daniel Fells (ankle) was placed on the season-ending Reserve/Injured list Monday, Oct. 5, due to a staph infection in his ankle. TE Will Tye was [ More ]

Antonio GatesOct 5 04:22p

San Diego Chargers TE Antonio Gates is in great shape and will be play in the Week 5 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to head coach Mike McCoy.

Ryan MallettOct 5 02:42p

Houston Texans QB Ryan Mallett will be the starting quarterback for the Week 5 game against the Indianapolis Colts Thursday, Oct. 8, according to head coach Bill O'Brien.

Christine MichaelOct 5 02:42p

Dallas Cowboys RB Christine Michael will have a role in the offense, according to executive vice president Stephen Jones, with RB Lance Dunbar (knee) possibly out for the rest [ More ]

Dez BryantOct 5 02:32p

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (foot) could return after the Cowboys' Week 6 bye, according to executive vice president Stephen Jones. Bryant recently had a positive examination of the [ More ]

Cecil Shorts IIIOct 5 02:12p

Houston Texans WR Cecil Shorts (shoulder) is considered doubtful for the Week 5 game against the Indianapolis Colts because of the dislocated shoulder he suffered in Week 4.

Alec OgletreeOct 5 02:12p

St. Louis Rams LB Alec Ogletree (ankle) will need surgery on his ankle, according to head coach Jeff Fisher. Ogletree is a candidate to be placed on the short-term Reserve/Injured list.

Dan CampbellOct 5 01:52p

Miami Dolphins tight ends coach Dan Campbell was named the team's interim head coach Monday, Oct. 5.

Julius ThomasOct 5 01:52p

Jacksonville Jaguars TE Julius Thomas (hand) is scheduled to meet with a doctor Monday, Oct. 5, and may be cleared for full practice after the meeting. His status for [ More ]

Caleb SturgisOct 5 01:32p

Philadelphia Eagles PK Caleb Sturgis will remain the team's kicker for the time being, according to head coach Chip Kelly.

Will MontgomeryOct 5 01:22p

Chicago Bears C Will Montgomery (leg) will miss the remainder of the 2015 season after he suffered a fractured tibia during the team's Week 4 game. He will need [ More ]

Josh JohnsonOct 5 01:22p

Indianapolis Colts QB Josh Johnson was released Monday, Oct. 5.

Colin KaepernickOct 5 01:02p

San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick was 13-for-25 for just 160 yards and an interception in the Week 4 loss to the Green Bay Packers. He also ran for 57 yards on 10 carries.

Kyle BrindzaOct 5 12:42p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers PK Kyle Brindza was released Monday, Oct. 5, after missing seven kicks in the last two weeks.

Joe PhilbinOct 5 11:52a

Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin was fired Monday, Oct. 5, according to Sun-Sentinel.

Willie SneadOct 5 11:02a

New Orleans Saints WR Willie Snead played 48 snaps (66% of the offense) Sunday, Oct. 4, in Week 4, while WR Brandon Coleman played just 19 for 26% of the offense.

Andrew LuckOct 5 10:12a

Updating an earlier report, Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck (shoulder) is expected by the team to be under center Thursday, Oct. 8, against the Houston Texans. His shoulder injury [ More ]

Daniel FellsOct 5 09:52a

New York Giants TE Daniel Fells (foot) had an unexpected foot surgery and is likely headed to Injured Reserve, according to sources.

Jordan ReedOct 5 09:42a

Updating a previous report, Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed (concussion) was diagnosed with a concussion Sunday, Oct. 4.

Andrew LuckOct 5 08:52a

Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck (shoulder) has a short week to prepare for Week 5, but he's trending toward being ready Thursday, Oct. 8, against the Houston Texans. 'He [ More ]

DeMarco MurrayOct 5 08:42a

Philadelphia Eagles RB DeMarco Murray said he's not getting enough touches in the offense Sunday, Oct. 4. 'No, I'm not,' Murray said. 'I don't think I am. It's how [ More ]

C.J. SpillerOct 5 01:42a

New Orleans Saints RB C.J. Spiller carried just twice for 10 yards in the Week 4 game against the Dallas Cowboys, but he had an 80-yard touchdown catch and [ More ]

Willie SneadOct 5 01:42a

New Orleans Saints WR Willie Snead posted six receptions for 89 yards in the Week 4 game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Mark IngramOct 5 01:42a

New Orleans Saints RB Mark Ingram carried 17 times for 77 yards in the Week 4 game against the Dallas Cowboys. He also added six receptions for 51 yards [ More ]

Drew BreesOct 5 01:42a

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees (shoulder) completed 33 of his 41 pass attempts for 359 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His 80-yard touchdown pass to RB C.J. [ More ]

Brandon WeedenOct 5 01:12a

Dallas Cowboys QB Brandon Weeden completed 16 of his 26 pass attempts for 246 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions in the Week 4 overtime loss against the New [ More ]

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
Player Notes:
Forum Posts:

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group