Browns linebacker Scott Fujita's chances of having his three-game suspension overturned seemingly continue to decrease.
Arbitrator Shyam Das has ruled in the NFL’s favor and dismissed one of the NFL Players Association’s grievances in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty case, league spokesman Greg Aiello announced this afternoon via Twitter.
The union argued that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell does not have the authority to discipline players for conduct that occurred before the new collective bargaining agreement was signed last August. Das sided with the league.
The union also sought to have appeals heard by Ted Cottrell and Art Shell, who are jointly appointed by the league and union to review discipline for on-field conduct, instead of Goodell. But as Pro Football Talk pointed out and Das explained in his decision, the NFLPA did not pursue that issue in the May 16 hearing. As a result, Das did not rule on it.
Arbitrator Stephen Burbank rejected the union’s other grievance in the bounty case on Monday, ruling Goodell has the authority to discipline Fujita and others who received punishment for their alleged involvement in the scandal. The NFLPA argued that Burbank, not Goodell, has the authority to punish players for alleged salary-cap violations. The union will appeal Burbank’s decision.
“It’s certainly disappointing, but this is a part of the process,” Fujita said Tuesday of Burbank’s ruling. “You’ve just got to be patient and respect that process and just keep hoping for a positive outcome.”
In addition to suspending Fujita for three games, the NFL has suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the entire season, Green Bay Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove, who used to play for the Saints, for eight games and Saints defensive end Will Smith for four games.
Fujita, who played for the Saints from 2006-09, reserved the right to appeal his suspension pending the outcome of the union's grievances. He has repeatedly denied the NFL’s accusation that he contributed money to a pool that paid players for intentionally trying to injure opponents.
The league has set June 18 as the date Goodell will hear the appeals of Fujita and the other players, Aiello announced today via Twitter.