Falcons will not respond to report about pending 'severe' penalties

FLOWERY BRANCH -- The Falcons were caught off guard when they were informed at the owners’ meeting that their punishment for the noise gate investigation would be “severe.”

The team was not expecting to receive an update at the meeting and were not expecting an announcement, according to a team spokesman.

The Falcons and the Cleveland Browns were informed of their pending penalties, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The official notification of the outcome of the investigation will be mailed to the Falcons from from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s office. The Falcons have not received this official notification.

When they receive the letter and review it, they’ll respond at that time, according to the team.

The Falcons were investigated for piping in fake crowd noise through the Georgia Dome’s sound system for the past two seasons. The violations turned up in the regular league audit of sound levels.

The Falcons could be fined and possibly lose a draft choice. However, the league released the draft order on Tuesday and all of the Falcons’ eight picks for the 2015 draft were listed.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank admitted the team negligently crossed the line.

"It's not really a fine line," Blank told The Associated Press on Feb. 2. "I think what we've done in 2013 and 2014 was wrong. Anything that affects the competitive balance and fairness on the field, we're opposed to, as a league, as a club and as an owner. It's obviously embarrassing but beyond embarrassing it doesn't represent our culture and what we're about."

The Falcons were expecting to hear from the league by late February, early March.

Blank said he was “embarrassed and angered” when he found out in November that the franchise was being investigated by the league office.

“We cooperated fully,” Blank said “We certainly support the integrity of the league, the integrity of fair competition and the integrity of the shield. We are not happy about it.”

The Falcons have not commented on the report on their pending penalties.

General manager Thomas Dimitroff (from left), owner Arthur Blank, coach Dan Quinn and President and CEO Rich McKay pose for a photo at the end of a news conference introducing Quinn as coach on Feb. 3 in Flowery Branch. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

The Falcons were not turned in by an opposing team. They issue come up in league’s regular review and periodic check of the audio of games in terms of crowd noise.

“That’s not our culture and what we are about or what the NFL is about,” Blank said.

Falcons president Rich McKay is chairman of the league’s competition committee.

“There’s plenty of in-game, either noise or use-of-the-board fines,” McKay said.

There have been 10 or more other similar cases around the league that have looked into the way noise has been used on third down and the use of music.

“This specific instance they’re looking into, I don’t know that,” McKay said. “As far as somebody played something too loud or somebody played something too long.”

Stadium officials are allowed to use stadium audio until 20 seconds remain on the play clock, 10 seconds longer than previous years. Video boards can incite crowds to make noise throughout a visiting team’s play when previously it had to be discontinued with 30 seconds left on the play clock.

The Dome has not been rocking much since the Falcons defeated Seattle in the division round of the playoffs in 2013. After losing in the NFC championship game to the San Francisco 49ers, the Falcons have posted a 10-22 record and have lost their “Dome” field advantage.

Ironically, during last season the Falcons had to use silent counts because of crowd noise from the visiting teams’ fans who overtook the Georgia Dome.

Back in 2007 at the old RCA Dome, the Patriots accused the Indianapolis Colts of pumping in artificial crowd when Tom Brady was trying to call signals.

CBS-TV and the NFL said the mistake was not the Colts, but network’s error. It said that an unusual audio moment from the production truck was the cause of the noise.

Over the years, there have been suspicions of noise being piped into the now demolished Minneapolis Metrodome. Where the sound unofficially registered 118-decibel levels during the Vikings’ divisional playoff victory over Dallas in January 2010.

Seattle set the standard when their crowd of 68,331 at outdoor CenturyLink Field registered a noise level of 131.9 decibels during their victory over the 49ers in 2013.

The Seahawks claimed that they broke the previous Guinness World Record of 131.7 decibels, set two years ago during a soccer match in Turkey.

Generally, 130 decibels are considered dangerous enough to cause hearing damage, much like standing next to a jet engine.


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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.