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Browns LB Fujita criticizes Goodell

BEREA, Ohio (AP) - Browns linebacker Scott Fujita accused Roger Goodell of abusing his power as commissioner for his handling of the New Orleans Saints' bounty case.

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Fujita also criticized the NFL's recent record on player safety and said he plans to appeal the reduced suspension. He expects to play Sunday when the winless Browns (0-5) host the Cincinnati Bengals.

Fujita, who had his three-game suspension reduced to one on Tuesday by Goodell, released a statement Wednesday in which he expressed being most angered with a letter he received from Goodell after his suspension was reduced.

Before practicing Wednesday, Fujita said in the statement that he's pleased Goodell acknowledged he never participated in the Saints' pay-for-hits program. However, Fujita did not like the content or the tone of the letter in which the commissioner chastised him for not stepping in and stopping the program.

``For him to come out and say he was disappointed in me for not standing up to my coach,'' Fujita said after practice Wednesday. ``I haven't had someone tell me they were disappointed in me since I was 12 years old, and that was my father.''

Goodell wrote to Fujita that he was ``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. ... . 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.''

A member of the NFL Players Association's executive board, Fujita, who met with Goodell on Sept. 28 in New York, was most bothered that Goodell's ``condescending tone used in his redetermination letter was neither accurate nor productive.''

Fujita went on, ``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 dangerous 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.''

Fujita said if the wording in Goodell's letter had not been so offensive he may have accepted the lesser suspension without a fight.

``I've got to admit, the condescending tone really sent me over the edge,'' Fujita said. ``I thought it was uncalled for and inappropriate. We had a very respectful, productive meeting last week but the redetermination to come out the way it did and for me to be resuspended for not standing up to my defensive coordinator didn't make sense to me.''

On Tuesday, Goodell upheld the suspensions of Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith and reduced penalties for Fujita and Anthony Hargrove.

Vilma will sit out the entire season and Smith's punishment stands at four games.

Hargrove, a free agent defensive lineman, will face a two-game suspension once he signs with a team. He originally was hit with eight games, but that was reduced to seven with five games already served.

The players were implicated in what the NFL said was a bounty pool run by former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and paid improper cash bonuses for hits that injured opponents. The players have acknowledged a pool but denied they intended to injure anyone.

Goodell's new ruling comes about a month after an appeals panel created by the NFL's labor agreement vacated the original suspensions on technical grounds during Week 1 of the regular season. The panel informed Goodell he needed to clarify the reasons for the punishment.

The 33-year-old Fujita has maintained his innocence from the start of the scandal. He particularly has taken issue with Goodell's dealings with player safety.

``For me, the issue of player health & safety is personal,'' said Fujita. ``For the league and the Commissioner, it's about perception & 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 & 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 & safety speaks for itself. And clearly, as I just listed, the Commissioner's does too.''

Fujita played four seasons in New Orleans before signing as a free agent with Cleveland in 2010.

---

AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this story.

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written
consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

  
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