BEREA: A day after the NFL reduced Browns linebacker Scott Fujita’s three-game suspension stemming from the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal to one game, Fujita verbally blasted Commissioner Roger Goodell and accused him of abusing his power.
“I think it’s just a power-run-amok situation,” Fujita said Wednesday after he practiced with the team. “Obviously the scope of the conduct-detrimental powers that have been afforded him are broad but there has been clear abuse of power that has been afforded to him.”
Fujita said he plans to appeal the revised suspension and expects to play Sunday when the Browns (0-5) host the Cincinnati Bengals (3-2). Fujita, who played for the Saints from 2006-09 and signed with the Browns in 2010, must notify the league of his intent to appeal by Friday. Goodell would hear the appeal, but Fujita and the NFL Players Association also could seek legal action as they have before.
In a letter from Goodell to Fujita that was released by the league Tuesday, Goodell backed down from his original accusation by conceding he cannot prove Fujita contributed money to a bounty program allegedly administered by former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. But Goodell also questioned Fujita’s integrity as a player safety advocate.
“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,” Goodell wrote.
Fujita said “the condescending tone” of the letter sent him “over the edge.” He fired back Wednesday by discussing the debacle with reporters in the Browns locker room and releasing a statement of his own.
“I haven’t had someone tell me they were disappointed in me since I was 12 years old, and that was my father,” Fujita said.
In his statement, Fujita wrote: “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.’ ”
For several months, Fujita repeatedly denied the league’s accusation that he put money into a pool that allegedly paid his former Saints teammates for injuring opposing players. He finds some satisfaction in Goodell’s concession that he hasn’t been able to prove otherwise.
“Do I feel good about the fact that he’s acknowledging publicly that I wasn’t a part of any bounty program?” Fujita said. “Yeah, I’m happy about that, but it doesn’t erase the damage that’s been done. The time away from my family for the last seven months, a lot of people’s minds are made up on this and will be made up forever, so I don’t take that lightly.”
Fujita said he paid teammates for big plays such as interceptions and sacks, but not for hurting opponents. Goodell used Fujita’s pay-for-performance admission as at least part of the reason he issued a one-game ban.
“I’ve just been open and honest throughout this whole process about what I have and have not done,” Fujita said. “To attack my character for the last seven months, for my integrity to be questioned and then to challenge my positions on health and safety, I’ll put my track record up against [Goodell’s] and the league’s anytime.”
Fujita said he had “a very productive, cordial meeting” with Goodell Sept. 28 when the two discussed the bounty case at league’s headquarters in New York. Fujita was surprised by the content of Goodell’s letter.
“Yeah, because it was a very respectful meeting,” Fujita said. “I went in and no punches were thrown. Everybody was kind. So, yeah, I was a little bit taken aback by it and just the language, to me, it was just inappropriate. It didn’t have to go there at all. It just felt like one more personal jab.”
When asked whether he might suffer any consequences for lashing out against Goodell, Fujita said, “I don’t know what repercussions there could be. I mean this is how I feel about things. I’ve been very clear about it since back in March, so I don’t think it could get any worse.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com.browns.abj