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Falcons Fined $350K & Lose NFL Draft Selection

Football Texture/iStockphoto(NEW YORK) -- The National Football League fined the Atlanta Falcons $350,000 on Monday for piping in crowd noise during home games at the Georgia Dome over the past two seasons.

The Falcons will also have their fifth-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft taken away. If they have multiple picks in that round, the league will dock the highest selection.

“What took place was wrong and nowhere near the standards by which we run our business,” Falcons owner and chairman Arthur Blank said in a statement. “Anytime there are actions that compromise the integrity of the NFL or threaten the culture of our franchise, as this issue did, they will be dealt with swiftly and strongly.”

The NFL also suspended Falcons president Rich McKay from the league’s competition committee from April 1 through at least June 30.

“The Falcons and all of our other businesses are built upon a foundation of values that drive our decision making,” said Blank. “The issue was a clear failure in that regard. I apologize for any embarrassment this situation has caused the NFL, our fans and our Falcons players and associates.”

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Browns GM Ray Farmer Suspended Four Games

NFL(NEW YORK) -- The National Football League suspended Browns general manager Ray Farmer without pay for the first four games of the 2015 regular season on Monday for sending text messages to team personnel during games in 2014. The league also fined Cleveland $250,000.

Farmer’s suspension will begin on the midnight of the Sunday before the Browns’ Week 1 contest and concludes following the team’s Week 4 game. During the ban, Farmer won’t be allowed to deal with team business or permitted to be at the team’s facilities or games.

“I respect the league’s decision and understand that there are consequences for my actions,” Farmer said in a statement. “Accountability is integral to what we are trying to build and as a leader I need to set the right example. I made a mistake and apologize to Jimmy Haslam, Mike Pettine, our entire organization and our fans for the ramifications. Learning is a big part of who I am and I will certainly be better from this situation.”

According to ESPN, Farmer texted an assistant coach and an unnamed team representative on the sideline that dealt with use of personnel and in-game strategy. 

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Seahawks QB Russell Wilson Not Concerned over Contract Situation

Kevin Casey/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- While Quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and even Joe Flacco are among the highest paid players in the NFL, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson remains one of the best bargains in the league at $1.5 million, which he'll make next season. It's one of the lowest salaries for a starting quarterback in the NFL, let alone a Super Bowl champion.

Still, with one year left on his current deal, Wilson isn't worrying about a new deal just yet.

“In terms of my contract, I don’t really talk about that kind of stuff,” Wilson told the Everett Herald. “I love the game of football. I love playing the game of football. I try to put my best foot forward and I want to be the best to ever play the game. That’s the way I look at it."

"I’ve been fortunate enough to win a lot of games at such a young age and to be able to play with some great guys and have some great comeback wins and win a Super Bowl, and go to back to back Super Bowls," he continued. "It’s been special. So that’s what I focus on. I focus on the next opportunity that I have. The rest will come."

In just three NFL seasons, Wilson is already considered one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

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ESPN: Georgia State Guard R.J. Hunter to Enter NBA Draft

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- With Georgia State's end-of-season run still fresh in everyone's mind, ESPN reports guard R.J. Hunter will enter the 2015 NBA Draft.

Hunter will reportedly hold a news conference on Tuesday to make the decision official.

Hunter had a very productive collegiate career during his three seasons at Georgia State as he's the leading scorer in school history. While his shooting numbers were down, Hunter did average a career-high 19.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. In three seasons at Georgia State, Hunter averaged 18.4 points while shooting .423% from the floor and .354% from the three-point line.

The 14th seed in the tournament this season, Georgia Tech had one of the most memorable upsets of the year when they beat 3rd seeded Baylor.

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Hornets' Al Jefferson Will Not Be at Full Strength for the Rest of the Season

NBA via Utah Jazz(NEW YORK) -- As the Charlotte Hornets fight for there playoff lives with the regular season winding down, they'll have to do it with one of their best players feeling less than 100%.

Head coach Steve Clifford announced that center Al Jefferson will not be fully healthy for the remainder of the season.

“Al is not going to be 100 percent here the rest of the year. He is just not,” Clifford told The Charlotte Observer.

The team's anchor, Jefferson underwent an MRI a couple weeks ago after injuring his knee and calf. No structural damage was found, but Jefferson hasn't been the same player since.

Charlotte has gone 1-5 since and Jefferson has averaged just 15.3 and 7.3 rebounds per game, both below his season averages.

With just ten games left in the regular season, the Hornets are fighting with the Nets, Celtics, and Pacers for the eighth and final playoff spot. Just one game separates the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, held by the Nets, and the 11th spot in the East, occupied by Charlotte.

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Craig Sager Suffers Leukemia Recurrence

National Basketball Association(NEW YORK) -- NBA Broadcaster Craig Sager has suffered a recurrence of his Leukemia, according to his son.

Sager's son shared the news via his Twitter feed:

We wanted to ensure he was taken care of & that we knew what the next steps were before we shared this #SagerStrong

— Craig Sager II (@CraigSagerJr) March 29, 2015

Sager, 63, was diagnosed with the cancer last April and returned to broadcasting on March 5 after being cleared to work by doctors.

The broadcaster has since cancelled his plans to be part of the NCAA tournament coverage and NBA playoffs as he undergoes further treatment.

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Mariners Prospect Passes Away After Boating Accident

Major League Baseball

(NEW YORK) -- Victor Sanchez, a 20-year-old prospect of the Seattle Mariners, lost his life from injuries sustained in a February boating accident, according to the team.

Sanchez reportedly suffered a double skull fracture and brain hematoma after being struck in the head by a propeller while swimming in the Venezuelan coastal town of Campano.

"The Seattle Mariners are saddened to learn of the passing of Victor Sanchez," said Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik through a team statement. "Victor was a tremendous young man and a wonderful teammate. He was a very talented player who was close to fulfilling his promise as a major leaguer. He will be missed by his teammates and the coaches and staff at the Mariners. The entire Mariners organization sends our deepest condolences to his family during this difficult time."

Sanchez pitched a 4.19 ERA last season, while earning a 7-6 record for the Mariners Double A club.

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Hamlin Wins at Martinsville

Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR

(MARTINSVILLE, Va.) -- At NASCAR's famous "slow" track, Denny Hamlin survived the rubbing and racing to take the checkered flag at Martinsville Speedway.

Hamlin outlasted Brad Keselowski in the final five laps, who said he "did everything I could other than wreck him." 

Hamlin remembered Joe Gibbs Racing president, J.D. Gibbs, who was recently hospitalized for "symptoms impacting areas of brain function," after the win.

"We're thinking about J.D. He's the one that gave me my start ten years ago," Hamlin said. "Can't be prouder to put Joe Gibbs racing back in victory lane and they've been with me so long...this is what happens."

The win marks the fifth time Hamlin has entered victory lane at Martinsville and his 25th victory in NASCAR overall.

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Alabama Dismisses DT Taylor

American Football Field Yard Lines IStockPhoto/ Thinkstock(TUSCALOOSA, Al.) -- The Alabama Crimson Tide have dismissed defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor from the football team after he was arrested on a domestic violence charge, the team announced.

Alabama dismisses DT Jonathan Taylor from team.

— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) March 29, 2015

The 21-year-old was taken into custody after a 24-year-old woman called police and said she had been assaulted by her boyfriend. When police arrived there were visible marks on her neck.

Taylor, transferred to the program after being dismissed from the Georgia Bulldogs program last year after being arrested for allegedly striking his girlfriend with a closed fist and then choking her. The case is still pending.

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Scoreboard Roundup - 3/29/15

Hemera/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- NBA: Houston Rockets 99 (50-23) - Washington Wizards 91 (41-33)

Brooklyn Nets 107 (32-40) - Los Angeles Lakers 99 (19-53)

New Orleans Pelicans 110 (39-34) - Minnesota Timberwolves 88 (16-57)

Cleveland Cavaliers 87 (48-27) - Philadelphia 76ers 86 (18-56)

Los Angeles Clippers 119 (49-25) - Boston Celtics 106 (32-41)

Miami Heat 109 (34-39) - Detroit Pistons 102 (28-5)

San Antonio Spurs 103 (47-26) - Memphis Grizzlies 89 (50-24)

Indiana Pacers 104 (32-41) - Dallas Mavericks 99 (45-29)

Oklahoma City Thunder 109 (42-32) - Phoenix Suns 97 (38-36)

NCAA Tournament: South Region: Elite Eight: (1) Duke 66 (33-4) - (2) Gonzaga 52 (35-3)

East Region: (7) Michigan State 76 (27-11) - (4) Louisville 70 (27-9) - Overtime

NHL: Washington Capitals 5  (41-25-10, 92pts) - New York Rangers 2  (47-21-7, 101pts)

Florida Panthers 4  (35-26-15, 85pts) - Ottawa Senators 2 (37-26-12, 86pts)

New York Islanders 5 (45-27-5, 95pts) - Detroit Red Wings 4 (40-23-12, 92pts)

Calgary Flames 5 (41-28-7, 89pts) - Nashville Predators 2 (47-22-8, 102pts)

Boston Bruins 2 (38-25-13, 89pts) - Carolina Hurricanes 1 (28-36-11, 67pts) - Overtime

Anaheim Ducks 2  (49-22-7, 105pts) - New Jersey Devils 1 (31-33-12, 74pts)

Chicago Blackhawks 4 (45-24-6, 96pts) - Winnipeg Jets 3 (39-25-12, 90pts)

Pittsburgh Penguins 3 (42-23-11, 95pts) - San Jose Sharks 2 (37-30-9, 83pts) - Shootout

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