Dolphins owner suspended, team loses draft picks for Brady, Payton tampering

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The NFL announced Tuesday that an independent investigation determined the Miami Dolphins had impermissible communications with Tom Brady and former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton.

As a result, the league is stripping the Dolphins of their 2023 first-round pick and their 2024 third-rounder for violating its integrity of the game policy.

Additionally, the NFL is suspending Miami owner Stephen Ross through Oct. 17 and fining him $1.5 million. The league is also removing him from all committees indefinitely and barring him from attending any NFL meeting until the league's annual gathering in 2023.

The investigation found that the Dolphins tampered with Brady both while he was under contract with the New England Patriots in 2019-20 and after his 2021 season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Miami also violated league rules through its communications with Payton in January.

"The investigators found tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity," said commissioner Roger Goodell. "I know of no prior instance of a team violating the prohibition on tampering with both a head coach and star player, to the potential detriment of multiple other clubs, over a period of several years. Similarly, I know of no prior instance in which ownership was so directly involved in the violations."

The NFL also fined Dolphins vice chairman/limited partner Bruce Beal $500,000 and barred him from attending any league meeting for the remainder of the 2022 campaign.

However, the league didn't find evidence supporting the tanking allegations made by former Dolphins coach Brian Flores.

Flores said he refused to accept a $100,000-per-game offer to tank during his first season with Miami. The investigation found the offer wasn't intended, or taken, to be serious.

"Every club is expected to make a good-faith effort to win every game," Goodell said. "The integrity of the game, and public confidence in professional football, demand no less.

"An owner or senior executive must understand the weight that his or her words carry and the risk that a comment will be taken seriously and acted upon, even if that is not the intent or expectation. Even if made in jest and not intended to be taken seriously, comments suggesting that draft position is more important than winning can be misunderstood and carry with them an unnecessary potential risk to the integrity of the game."

Goodell continued: "The comments made by Mr. Ross did not affect coach Flores' commitment to (winning), and the Dolphins competed to win every game. Coach Flores is to be commended for not allowing any comment about the relative importance of draft position to affect his commitment to (winning) throughout the season."

Ross said the independent investigation cleared the Dolphins organization of "any issues related to tanking and all of Brian Flores' other allegations." But Ross voiced his disagreement with the investigation's findings on tampering.

"However, I will accept the outcome because the most important thing is that there be no distractions for our team as we begin an exciting and winning season," he said in a statement.

The penalties imposed on the Dolphins are final and don't include any type of appeals process.

Meanwhile, Flores said he was thankful the investigation corroborated his allegations but discouraged by Ross' punishment.

"I am disappointed to learn that the investigator minimized Mr. Ross' offers and pressure to tank games, especially when I wrote and submitted a letter at the time to Dolphins executives documenting my serious concerns regarding this subject at the time, which the investigator has in her possession," Flores said in a statement obtained by NFL Network's Mike Garafolo.

"While the investigator found that the Dolphins had engaged in impermissible tampering of 'unprecedented scope and severity,' Mr. Ross will avoid any meaningful consequence. There is nothing more important when it comes to the game of football itself than the integrity of the game. When the integrity of the game is called into question, fans suffer, and football suffers."

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Dolphins owner suspended, team loses draft picks for Brady, Payton tampering
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