|Goodell satisfied Browns’ owner handling probe|
|Friday, August 02, 2013 12:16 AM|
BEREA — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell expressed confidence in Browns’ owner Jimmy Haslam, who is currently embroiled in a scandal involving fraud at his family-owned business.
Goodell visited Cleveland’s training camp on Thursday to launch a program between the league and Pop Warner with USA Football’s Heads Up Football Program. Following a clinic with young players, Goodell said he’s satisfied with Haslam’s handling of the federal investigation at Pilot Flying J, adding the league has no plans to intervene at this time.
“I don’t think it’s a matter for us at this moment,” Goodell said.
The commissioner said Haslam has kept him informed since the outset of the ongoing investigation and is confident Haslam is doing all he can to make amends.
“He doesn’t need any pushing,” Goodell explained. “This company means a lot to him and he’s obviously not happy about what has happened and he’s determined to fix it. Jimmy is more disappointed than anybody.”
Haslam has maintained he did not know about a program within his sales staff to cheat customers out of rebate and discount money. Seven employees of the truck-stop chain have pleaded guilty to defrauding customers.
Goodell said he asked Haslam if he knew about the scheme.
“He’s been very clear that he’s had no knowledge of that and he’s been clear publicly and clear with you all,” Goodell said.
Goodell called Haslam a “man of great integrity,” adding Haslam has been working hard to correct the problems at Pilot Flying J, which had its headquarters in Knoxville, Tenn., raided on April 15 by the FBI and IRS as part of the probe into wide-spread fraud at the company. Goodell said the league will continue to monitor the situation but doesn’t feel it needs to be more involved.
Pressed about what the league might do if Haslam were indicted, Goodell refused to presume anything.
“We’re not going to play the hypothetical game,” Goodell said. “Right now he’s addressing the issues. We’re confident he’s going to deal with it properly. You’re dealing with a bunch of hypotheticals. We’re not going there.”
Goodell said the league was thorough in its vetting of Haslam, who was a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers before he bought the Browns, noting that although he was already in the league, Haslam underwent the same scrutiny as any owner.
“This was a surprise to him and to his senior level management,” Goodell insisted. “From that standpoint, I don’t think he was aware of it and I don’t know any way we could have been aware of it. It was not disclosed to us.
“We go through the same process on any circumstance. When you’re going through a controlling ownership position, that’s a big step up so we don’t just pass that off. We do the same vetting process. Obviously he knows people in the league after being an owner, so there were certain aspects of that which were easier. But we didn’t short-circuit anything.”
Goodell is satisfied the investigation has not been a distraction to the Browns, who are undergoing another makeover with a new front office and coaching staff, However, Goodell did concede it’s troubling one of the NFL’s owner is part of federal probe.
“You never want to see this kind of thing happen, particularly to a partner in the league,” Goodell added. “Obviously, his partners care a great deal about him and as a partner they want to see him getting off to a good start. This is not what anybody intended, not anybody anticipated.
“But he’s a man that I think everyone truly respects in the NFL.”
Sensitivity training set for Eagles WR Cooper
PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles are setting up Riley Cooper with sensitivity training after the wide receiver was caught on video making a racial slur.
“In meeting with Riley yesterday, we decided together that his next step will be to seek outside assistance to help him fully understand the impact of his words and actions,” the team wrote in a statement Thursday. “He needs to reflect. As an organization, we will provide the resources he needs to do so.”
Cooper apologized profusely Wednesday after a video of him using the N-word at a Kenny Chesney concert last month surfaced on the Internet. The Eagles immediately fined him and the league plans no further discipline.
“I know Riley made a heinous mistake,” coach Chip Kelly said. “I was appalled by it. I was actually shocked by it because since I’ve been here since April, that’s not the Riley Cooper I know. He accepted responsibility for it and he has to live with it but I hope at some point in time we’ll have a chance to move on from it.
“But right now I don’t think it’s going to be something that’s going to go away very quickly.”
Cooper, who grew up in Clearwater, Fla., was selected in the fifth round of the 2010 draft by the Eagles out of the University of Florida. He has just 46 catches and five touchdowns in three years with the Eagles but has been practicing with the starters since Jeremy Maclin’s season-ending injury last week.
Teammates Michael Vick, Jason Avant and others expressed forgiveness for Cooper, as did LeSean McCoy, but he doesn’t view him the same anymore.
“Just on a friendship level,and as a person, I can’t really respect somebody like that,” McCoy said. “I think as a team, we need to move past it. There are some things that are going to be hard to work with, to be honest.”
Cooper spoke to the media again after practice Thursday, telling them his meeting with teammates a night earlier was “extremely emotional.”
“There’s been no friction,” Cooper told reporters. “I respect a lot of the guys that came up to me yesterday and today. Numerous, numerous, numerous players said, ‘Coop, we know that’s not the type of person you are. We respect you and we’re behind you, and if you need anything, call me, text me, you know I’m there for you.’ That definitely felt good.”
Cooper could have trouble outside the locker room when he’s on the field. Defenders may go after him even harder than usual now.