2015 DRAFT GUIDE
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

Tyler EifertJul 30 03:23p

Cincinnati Bengals TE Tyler Eifert said he is 100% healthy for the first time since the beginning of last offseason.

LeGarrette BlountJul 30 01:22p

New England Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount was placed on the Non-Football Injury list because he was not able to complete the conditioning test at the start of training camp. [ More ]

Kelvin BenjaminJul 30 01:02p

Carolina Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin (hamstring) said his hamstrings are fine and that he is 100% healthy entering training camp.

Terrance WestJul 30 12:52p

Cleveland Browns RB Terrance West worked with the first-team offense during team drills Thursday, July 30. Head coach Mike Pettine said several running backs will see time with the starters during training camp.

Trent RichardsonJul 30 10:22a

Oakland Raiders RB Trent Richardson is rumored to being unimpressive with his new team.

Tom BradyJul 30 10:12a

Updating an ongoing story, New England Patriots QB Tom Brady's lawsuit was transferred to Manhattan, N.Y., by a Minnesota judge Friday, July 30.

Tom BradyJul 30 09:52a

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady has filed a lawsuit against the NFL asking a Minnesota federal court for penalties against Brady to be vacated. The suit alleges that [ More ]

Jake LongJul 30 09:42a

Free-agent OT Jake Long (Rams) left his visit with the New York Giants Wednesday, July 29, without a deal. It was his second visit with the team without a [ More ]

Joseph RandleJul 29 08:43p

Dallas Cowboys RB Joseph Randle received strong praise from team owner and general manager Jerry Jones Wednesday July 29. 'We have a player (in Randle) that has the potential [ More ]

Joique BellJul 29 07:23p

Detroit Lions RB Joique Bell (undisclosed) was placed on the physically unable to perform list Wednesday, July 29, as he recovers from offseason surgery. It is unclear what the [ More ]

James WrightJul 29 06:43p

Free-agent WR James Wright (Bengals) was placed on Reserve/Injured Wednesday, July 29.

Jordan ReedJul 29 05:43p

Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed (knee) has been cleared for full participation in training camp, according to head coach Jay Gruden.

Chase CoffmanJul 29 04:53p

Free-agent TE Chase Coffman (Titans) re-signed with the Tennessee Titans Wednesday, July 29, according to a source.

Jason Pierre-PaulJul 29 04:33p

New York Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul (finger) can be placed on the Non-Football Injury list if/when he signs his franchise tender. Owner John Mara said the team would like [ More ]

Jason Pierre-PaulJul 29 04:23p

New York Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul (finger) is receiving his own medical treatment and rehabilitation at his home. There is currently no timetable for his return. Pierre-Paul, however, could [ More ]

Roddy WhiteJul 29 03:43p

Atlanta Falcons WR Roddy White (knee) had his left knee drained before minicamp, and he could have it drained again before the season ends. White isn't concerned about it, [ More ]

Ryan KerriganJul 29 01:43p

Washington Redskins LB Ryan Kerrigan signed a five-year contract extension Wednesday, July 29, worth $11.5 million per season, according to a source. The deal includes a $16 million signing bonus.

Cyrus GrayJul 29 01:13p

Kansas City Chiefs RB Cyrus Gray was released Wednesday, July 29.

Carlos HydeJul 29 11:13a

San Francisco 49ers RB Carlos Hyde is not believed to be injured and shouldn't be on the non-football injury list for long. Hyde suffered a calf injury during spring [ More ]

Tom BradyJul 29 09:23a

Updating previous reports, New England Patriots QB Tom Brady posted on Facebook that he replaced his broken phone with a new one after his attorneys told the NFL 'my [ More ]

Tom BradyJul 29 01:53a

Updating a previous report, New England Patriots QB Tom Brady could have had his suspended reduced based on a series of conditions. According to a source with knowledge of [ More ]

Eric BerryJul 29 01:43a

Kansas City Chiefs SS Eric Berry (illness) has been cleared to take the practice field with the team Wednesday, July 29. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in December [ More ]

Geno SmithJul 28 08:03p

New York Jets QB Geno Smith could be benched if he struggles early in the season, according to head coach Todd Bowles Tuesday, July 28. 'If you feel that [ More ]

Ryan WilliamsJul 28 05:53p

Dallas Cowboys RB Ryan Williams (knee) was placed on Reserve/Injured Tuesday, July 28.

Brodrick BunkleyJul 28 05:43p

New Orleans Saints DT Brodrick Bunkley (undisclosed) was released with a failed physical designation Tuesday, July 28.

James WrightJul 28 05:33p

Cincinnati Bengals WR James Wright (knee) was waived with an injured designation Tuesday, July 28.

Darrin ReavesJul 28 05:33p

Carolina Panthers RB Darrin Reaves was waived Tuesday, July 28.

Tom BradyJul 28 05:13p

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady is facing a four-game suspension, but the Patriots have done fairly well without him. In games Brady has missed since he became a [ More ]

Tom BradyJul 28 04:53p

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady has given permission to the NFL Players Association to appeal his case in federal court, according to a source. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell [ More ]

Lamar MillerJul 28 03:43p

Miami Dolphins RB Lamar Miller may see an increase in carries in 2015, according to head coach Joe Philbin. 'If he's cranking and he got it 24 times a [ More ]

Le'Veon BellJul 28 03:03p

Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell's original three-game suspension has been reduced to a two-game suspension Tuesday, July 28.

Tom BradyJul 28 02:53p

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady's four-game suspension has been upheld by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell Tuesday, July 28.

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