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On Tuesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reduced the suspension of Browns linebacker Scott Fujita from three games to one game and conceded he has no proof that Fujita contributed money to a bounty program that the New Orleans Saints allegedly administered, an accusation Goodell levied against Fujita in May.
But in a letter from Goodell to Fujita that was released by the league, Goodell also chastised Fujita for not speaking out against the alleged bounty program.
Fujita, who played for the Saints from 2006-09 before signing with the Browns in 2010, will practice today and can still appeal the revised suspension. In the meantime, he fired back at Goodell by releasing the following statement:
“I'm pleased the Commissioner has finally acknowledged that I never participated in any so-called ‘bounty’ program, as I've said for the past seven months. However, his condescending tone was neither accurate nor productive. Additionally, I am now purportedly being suspended for failing to confront my former defensive coordinator for his inappropriate use of language. This seems like an extremely desperate attempt to punish me. I also think it sets a bad precedent when players can be disciplined for not challenging the behavior of their superiors. This is an absolute abuse of the power that's been afforded to the Commissioner.
“For me, the issue of player health and safety is personal. For the league and the Commissioner, it's about perception and liability.
“The Commissioner says he is disappointed in me. The truth is, I’m disappointed in him. His positions on player health and safety since a 2009 congressional hearing on concussions have been inconsistent at best. He failed to acknowledge a link between concussions and post-career brain disease, pushed for an 18-game regular season, committed to a full season of Thursday night games, has continually challenged players' rights to file workers compensation claims for on-the-job injuries, and he employed incompetent replacement officials for the start of the 2012 season. His actions or lack thereof are by the league’s own definition, ‘conduct detrimental.’
“My track record on the issue of player health and safety speaks for itself. And clearly, as I just listed, the Commissioner's does too.”
Here is Goodell’s letter to Fujita:
“While I have not found that you directly contributed to the bounty pool, there is no serious question that you were aware of the pool and its elements, including that it provided rewards for cart-offs. Indeed, Mr. [Jonathan] Vilma testified that Coach [Gregg] Williams brought the program to the team’s defensive leaders before the 2009 season and that you supported and endorsed it. Your own comments confirm that players were encouraged to ‘crank up the John Deere tractor and cart those guys off’ the playing field.
“I am surprised and disappointed by the fact that you, a former defensive captain and a passionate advocate for player safety, ignored such a program and permitted it to continue. You made clear to me that participation in the program was voluntary and that other players could have refused to participate, as you claim to have done. If you had spoken up, perhaps other players would have refused to participate and the consequences with which we are now dealing could have been avoided.
“I believe that everyone in the NFL, including players, has an obligation to promote fair and safe play, and to protect the integrity of the game. Your failure to act contributed to allowing this program to remain in place not only during the 2009 season, but for two additional seasons after that. There also remains the matter of your admitting to having essentially run your own rewards program, separate and apart from the program in which Coach Williams was involved, in which you paid or offered to pay teammates for ‘big plays’ such as forced fumbles or sacks. As you described the payments at our recent meeting, they were entirely independent of Coach Williams, the Club, or any Club Affiliate. As you further noted, you would pay such pledges only if the Saints won the game. This conduct is itself a violation of Article IX, Sections 9.1(c)(8) and 9.3(F) of the Constitution and Bylaws.
“I find that your violation of the rule, which protects the integrity of the game, constitutes conduct detrimental to the League. Accordingly, I have determined that you should be suspended without pay for one game. For the avoidance of doubt, none of this discipline is imposed because your offers or payments to other players were not disclosed to the League. If you had disclosed your offers or payments, they still would have violated the Constitution and Bylaws provisions discussed above and constituted conduct detrimental.”