The Atlanta Falcons may be paying dearly after the league caught the team pumping in fake crowd noise, with rumors indicating that the NFL is looking at docking a high draft pick.
The league is still in the midst of deciding how to punish the Falcons after the team was caught using artificial crowd noise over the last two seasons, but indications are that it will be severe.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk said word around the league is that the NFL will take up to a second round pick from the Atlanta Falcons.
"Persistent chatter at the Scouting Combine suggested that the Falcons will be losing a second or third-round pick in the 2015 draft for the infraction," he wrote. "The NFL has provided no insight on the magnitude of the penalty the team will be facing.
"If it's a second-day pick, it wouldn't be a surprise. As cheating goes, attempting to disrupt the ability of the opposing offense to communicate seems to be a pretty big deal. Given that it wasn't a one-time thing but a two-year pattern tends to call for an even more significant punishment."
The crime seems to be a lot more severe than it sounds on its face. While a lot of teams use artificial sounds to pump up the crowd - like a fog horn on third downs in New England or a train whistle in Buffalo - the Falcons are accused of piping in their noise as the opposing team was huddling and trying to call plays.
The team had announced at the beginning of the month that the NFL was launching its investigation, and that they were cooperating fully.
"We were informed during the season that the league office is looking into crowd noise during our games," a Falcons team spokesman said. "We have cooperated fully with them, and we're awaiting the outcome."
Experts say it is difficult to benchmark how the NFL might penalize the Atlanta Falcons. The league tends to be strict on teams found playing outside the rules, like the New England Patriots when they were found taping their opponent's defensive signals from the sidelines. The league penalized the team $250,000 and coach Bill Belichick $500,000, as well as stripping them of a first-round draft pick.
The Atlanta Falcons could know very soon just what penalty they'll be facing for using artificial crowd noise. Pro Football Talk's Florio reported that the league is expected to announce the punishment on Friday.
[Image via New York Times]