IN THE COURT of the NFL, piped-in crowd noise will cost you a draft pick and illegal texting will cost you a general manager for four games.
That's the upshot of the sanctions against the Atlanta Falcons and the Cleveland Browns that the NFL announced yesterday.
The Falcons were guilty of pumping up the noise during two losing seasons. The NFL fined the team $350,000, stripped away a draft pick and suspended team president Rich McKay from the league's Competition Committee for at least 3 months after the Falcons conceded pumping artificial crowd noise into the Georgia Dome.
League rules state that "at no point during the game can artificial crowd noise or amplified crowd noise be played in the stadium."
The league also said Roddy White, the team's former director of event marketing, was directly responsible for the violation and would have been suspended without pay for the first 8 weeks of the 2015 season had he still been with the club. White, who coincidentally has the same name as one of the team's top receivers, was fired by the Falcons after the issue came to light.
Atlanta must forfeit its fifth-round pick in the 2016 draft. If the team has multiple picks in that round, the highest selection will be taken away.
The league also sent a tough message to Browns GM Ray Farmer, for texting. He was suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2015 season for sending text messages to the sideline during games last season.
Farmer, who acknowledged sending the messages weeks ago, will not be paid during his suspension. The league said his ban begins on midnight of the Sunday preceding the Browns' first regular-season game and will end immediately after the fourth regular-season game. Farmer cannot be involved in any club matters and is prohibited from being at the team's offices, practice facility or games, the league said.
"I respect the league's decision and understand that there are consequences for my actions," Farmer said in a statement released by the Browns.
The Browns also were fined $250,000.
* The fiancee of former New England tight end Aaron Hernandez testified in his murder trial in Fall River, Mass., that she removed a box from their basement at his request the day after the slaying but never looked inside before she dumped it in a random trash bin.
But Shayanna Jenkins also said for the first time that the box smelled skunky and she thought it contained marijuana, undercutting prosecutors' attempts to suggest the box contained crucial evidence - or even the weapon used to kill Odin Lloyd.
Jenkins, 25, is Hernandez's high-school sweetheart and the mother of his 2-year-old daughter. She was compelled to testify under a grant of immunity and was called to the stand for a second day by prosecutors.
Hernandez, 25, is charged with killing Lloyd on June 17, 2013. Lloyd, 27, was dating Jenkins' sister, Shaneah. He was found shot to death in an industrial park less than a mile from the home Hernandez and Jenkins share.
* San Francisco hosted free-agent linebacker Lance Briggs at the team headquarters yesterday. Briggs' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, confirmed the visit. Briggs, 34, is a seven-time Pro Bowler. He went on the reserve/injured list in late November with a groin injury, and played in only eight games last season for Chicago.
* Carolina signed free-agent running back/kick returner Jordan Todman from Jacksonville to a 1-year contract.
* Denver receiver Demaryius Thomas says he'll skip offseason workouts until the sides agree on a long-term contract.