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Transcript from news conference with Browns LB Scott Fujita

By Nate Ulrich Published: May 22, 2012

Browns linebacker Scott Fujita has been suspended three games by the NFL for his alleged role in the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal. Fujita has reserved the right to appeal the suspension pending the outcome of grievances the NFL Players Association has filed against the league. Following an organized team activity practice today, Fujita spoke to reporters for the first time since he received the suspension. Here is a transcript from the news conference:

Opening statement: “It’s been an interesting offseason to say the least. Some ups and some downs. My wife and I had a new daughter. It's great. I've been home enjoying family. I've got three great young daughters. Regarding the other stuff, I can only control what I can control and that's coming in and playing football and getting myself in the best shape as possible for this season, and regarding everything else, I'm just going to stand by my previous statements and I'll just stick with that.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said you contributed significant amounts of money to a bounty pool when you played for the New Orleans Saints: “I can stand by my previous statements. That is not true.”

Is it your word against the league?: “That's the reality of the situation that we're in now, and unfortunately for a lot of us, we're on public trial and that's unfortunate. But I'm just going to stick with my previous statements, and listen, there will come a time when I'll be ready to share everything, but now is not the time.”

What is the statement?: “It was a few weeks ago, you can go back and take a look. It was very clear and again, and I speak for myself, it's not any lawyers or anything. I've gone on record twice and spoken about my part in all of this and I was very clear about it. I'm obviously not very happy about the way things have played out, but it is what it is and now I've got to worry about football and getting back in the best shape possible for this season.”

What disappointed you about the way the league handled this?: “It's a combination of things. I think, first of all, when the news first broke, I was in the hospital with my family and my daughter had just been born and I had to hear some thing through a back channel media person about some investigation that's been going on for a couple years and I was never even alerted about it. I had a problem with that. That was at a time when I was supposed to be with my family, spending time with my newborn daughter so I was disappointed in that. Since that time, again, the idea of being on a public trial is a difficult situation to be in. Like you said, it's our word against theirs and that's frustrating but the reality is that I know what actually happened and that's why I can stand by those statements.”

Are you worried about your name being tarnished if you lose an appeal?: “Listen, my reputation is a lot more valuable to me than three game checks and my track record speaks for itself.”

Are you confident in the potential appeal?: “Yeah, it's a process that has to run its course. I'm not gong to make any predictions on it. It's a process and I'm just going to respect the process and come in and go to work and enjoy my teammates and coaches and again do everything possible to make this the best season of my career.” 

Where is appeal process?: “There will be another hearing [for the union’s grievances against the league] next week in Philadelphia on the 30th and then we'll see what happens from there.”

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is suing the league. Will you?: “Jonathan Vilma is incredibly bright. He is a man of very high character and he's got a lot of pride. He's one of the best teammates I've ever had, and I'm proud to call him a friend. I wish him the best with whatever he wants to do. Beyond that, that's all I have to say about that.”

Was there a bounty program?: “I'm just going to stand by my comments about my involvement or lack of involvement, I guess would be a better way to say that.”

What did the Browns say to you?: “They've been incredibly supportive from the very beginning from when this first started to break with everyone here. They've been incredibly supportive and I appreciate that very much.”

How do you respond to those who say how could you not know what was happening with the Saints?: “Well, it's defining what was going on. That's the thing. A lot of this stuff is being worked out and it's a process and I'll leave it at that.”

Do you have evidence to clear your name?: “Right now, it's just my word against theirs and it's a tough situation to be in. Can I go to bed at night and look at myself in the mirror and know what actually happened? Yeah. But it's an uphill battle. Can I go toe to toe with the media and all that kind of stuff? It's a challenging prospect."

Do you have to prove a negative, that it didn't happen?: “That's probably a pretty good way to put it. But again, my statement is all encompassing. It covers it all for me, and I'll just stick with that.”

Did you worry that this is how it would end if Browns decided to go another way?: “I never suspected to have an offseason like this. Yeah, you certainly don't ever want to be a stain on your reputation. So if that was the case it would be unfortunate because I've done nothing but tried to do the right thing throughout my career, tried to do positive, impactful things in the communities I've worked and played in and I've tried to right by players in my service to them, especially when it comes to player health and safety. So, yeah, for this to happen, it's disappointing."

Have your teammates looked at you any differently?: “No, not at all. Teammates have been great. It's great to get back and see everybody. I've missed all the guys and that's what continues to make this game fun for me are the guys in the locker room with me and the guys I play for. To come back yesterday and see [defensive coordinator] Dick Jauron and [linebackers coach] Billy Davis, I love these guys.”

In your heart, do you believe you’ll be on the field for the regular-season opener on Sept. 9?: “We'll see. I'm very optimistic. I'm always a hopeful guy. I can only control what I can control right now and that's getting myself ready to play.”

Did the team get better in the offseason?: “I like to think so. I don’t watch much college football, but again, we draft this young running back [Trent Richardson], and all I hear or read are things like, ‘This guy’s a beast, this guy’s a freak of nature’ and I like hearing those kind of things. So he looks great, I mean, all these guys look great, so I’m happy about it. I’m excited about the direction we’re going. I love my coaches on defense and this is one of the most experienced defensive coaching staffs I think I’ve ever been around. I love my group of linebackers we’re with. I like the defensive linemen in front of us, so I think all the things are headed in the right direction and we’re young. It’s just about coming together, having a full offseason for the first time and building on the things we did well last year and correcting the things where we fell short.”

What are your thoughts about the loss of defensive tackle Phil Taylor, who suffered a torn left pectoral muscle two weeks ago?: “I feel really bad for him, because he’s been working so hard. I ran into him in March down in Florida where he was training, and I thought he just looked fantastic, looked like he was in great shape. I was talking to Kent Johnston, our strength coach, and I knew that Phil had been working so hard. So when freak injuries like that happen, it’s disappointing and you just feel for the player. He’ll bounce back. He’ll be OK. But the second year is where so many players just make such a big leap in their professionalism, the way they approach the day-to-day workplace. So I’m sad for him, but he’ll be OK.”

How much will Taylor’s absence impact the team?: “It’s tough, because I’ve never been bashful about talking about how much I love big defensive linemen playing in front of me. Those guys protect me at my old age. We have good depth there now, I think. We have some new additions I think will help us out. We’re going to miss Phil, but I think we’ll be OK.”

Is there anything you can say to fans to reconcile the wide gap between the league’s statements and the players’ denial in the bounty scandal?: "It’s a case of extreme opposites: “It really is. That’s where we’re at right now. I’ve said everything I need to say in my statements. I feel those statements were all encompassing, about as clear as I could be and I’ll just have to stand by those.”

If you win an appeal, would it make Goodell look weak?: “It remains to be seen. It still is a process that has to be respected. I have to take it one step at a time, control what I can control. Like I said, there will come a point where I’ll be ready to share some more. But not right now.”

Was the audio of former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams damning to the players in court of public opinion?: “I don’t know. We’ve all been in locker rooms where inappropriate things are said, that are over the top and sound highly inappropriate to the rest of the world. But I’ve been in some locker rooms through high school, college and the league, it sounds crazy, but players for the most part just laugh it off and [say], ‘Hey, that guy’s just being crazy.’ The tape itself, it wasn’t evidence of anything, other than a coach saying some inappropriate things. That’s pretty much all I have to say about that.”

It seemed like you had deep respect for Goodell and his job. Has that changed?: “It’s a challenging position he’s in and I’m sensitive to that. But I think there’s also a better way to go about doing things.”

Have you seen any of the NFL’s evidence?: “No, I have not.”

Should Goodell be allowed to rule on the appeals?: “If you think that this is under his jurisdiction, then typically you would say yes. And that’s kinda where the grievance process, that’s the bulk of the argument, the discussion right now. So a lot of people say, well, listen, the players need to quit complaining because this is what they agreed to in the CBA. Here’s the reality, though. You have some guys who are willing to go to bat and they want to talk about commissioner discipline and maybe try to change that. But if it’s something the league’s going to dig in on, as a player who’s representing the players in negotiations, can you come back to your 22- or 23-year-old teammate in your locker room and look him in the eye and say, ‘I blew up that deal over player discipline?’ It’s a tough thing to reconcile with a guy who’s just trying to come in and earn his way in this league. For me, I’ve been in the league for a long time. Could I go to bat for an issue like that? I probably could. But can I look these guys in the eye and say that I did that? It’s a lot to ask. I’m sensitive to all those issues. Again, it’s just a process and I got to hope for the best. I’m optimistic. I know, I know, I know what’s really going on here. I just got to hope for the best.”

Because you’re an advocate for player safety, would the reputation of being the opposite be one of most bothersome things?: “Absolutely. For me, moving forward, too. I have a master’s degree in education. One of my goals is when I’m done playing, I want to go back and I want to teach. All right? If this kind of thing prevents me from being able to get hired, I’m not OK with that.”

Have you been given told a date when this will be resolved?: “No, they’re not. Generally you hope things like this will be expedited. I’m waiting on it. I’ve got a lot of teammates and coaches who are depending on me and depending on that information. Hopefully it gets resolved sooner rather than later. I can’t tell you how much I would love to be able to just move past this.”

How can the league make a decision like this without presenting the accused players with evidence?: “That’s a good question.”

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