- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Ravens reporter
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Browns linebacker Scott Fujita has repeatedly denied that he contributed money to a pool that allegedly paid his former Saints teammates for intentionally injuring opponents. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell conceded that he couldn't prove that, which is why Fujita's suspension was reduced from three games to one Tuesday.
"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," Goodell wrote to Fujita in a letter that was released by the league.
Fujita previously insisted that the suspension and lost salary (which is now $214,705 for one game) was secondary to clearing his name. Four months ago, Fujita said his reputation has been seriously damaged by what he called a "smear campaign." A member of the NFL Players Association executive committee, Fujita was a proponent of stronger rules in dealing with concussions and player injuries.
Will the reduced suspension satisfy Fujita? That will be known when Fujita decides to accept the suspension or appeal.
The NFL Players Association, which represents Fujita and the three other Saints involved, indicated that this issue hasn't been resolved.
This is the statement released by the players' union: "For more than six months, the NFL has ignored the facts, abused the process outlined in our collective bargaining agreement and failed to produce evidence that the players intended to injure anyone, ever. The only evidence that exists is the League’s gross violation of fair due process, transparency and impartiality during this process. Truth and fairness have been the casualties of the league’s refusal to admit that it might have made a mistake. We will review this decision thoroughly and review all options to protect our players’ rights with vigilance."
While Goodell couldn't prove that Fujita participated in the bounty program, he did scold the linebacker:
"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."
Browns linebacker Scott Fujita has repeatedly denied that he contributed money to a pool that allegedly paid his former Saints teammates for intentionally injuring opponents.