June 25, 2016

Mostly sunny

Fujita is furious

Scott Petrak

The Gazette

BEREA –– Browns linebacker Scott Fujita isn’t done fighting, and he unleashed a flurry of verbal jabs at commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday.

Fujita wasn’t satisfied when Goodell reduced his suspension from three games to one Tuesday, calling it “an extremely desperate attempt to punish me.” He was livid with the manner in which the discipline was delivered.

“Yeah, I gotta admit, the condescending tone really kind of sent me over the edge,” Fujita said. “I thought it was inappropriate.”

Fujita put out a hard-hitting statement ripping Goodell and followed it up with a pointed post-practice interview. He was upset with the letter Goodell sent to Fujita and circulated to the media that explained the discipline.

Goodell cleared Fujita of participating in the alleged pay-for-injury program of the New Orleans Saints in 2009, but said he was “surprised and disappointed” Fujita ignored it and permitted it to continue. Goodell also questioned Fujita’s commitment to player safety.

“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 his and the league’s anytime, anytime,” Fujita said.

Goodell didn’t have a response, according to a league spokesman.

Fujita said he’ll appeal the suspension –– the league must be notified of his intent to do so by Friday afternoon — and play Sunday against the Bengals. Goodell would hear the appeal. Legal action is also possible from Fujita and the union.

Goodell’s reasoning for the one-game suspension was Fujita not trying to stop the bounty program and admitting to giving money to teammates for big plays, such as sacks and forced fumbles. Goodell classified it as conduct detrimental to the league.

“It’s just a power-run-amok situation,” Fujita said. “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 met with Goodell on Sept. 28 after an appeals panel vacated the original three-game suspension and sent the case back to Goodell for reconsideration. Fujita called the meeting “very respectful” and “productive” and said he was taken aback by the letter.

“For him to come out and say he was disappointed in me for not standing up to my coach, I haven’t had someone tell me they were disappointed in me since I was 12 years old and that was my father,” said Fujita, who softened his statement after his wife told him to sleep on it. “It just felt like one more personal jab.”

After seventh months of declaring his innocence, Fujita earned vindication when Goodell admitted he didn’t give money to a pay-to-injure program. But Fujita wasn’t able to enjoy it.

“I’m pleased that he’s finally admitted that maybe there were some mistakes in the investigation and that I was never involved in anything like that,” he said. “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.”

With an appeal coming and possible legal action, the saga is far from over.

“I’m irritated that it’s still dragging on, that it’s a distraction for me at times, I hate that the club still has to wonder and worry about whether I’m going to be available this week or next week,” Fujita said. “But it’s about what’s right and what’s fair and I’m just going to keep being honest and eventually this thing will work itself out.”

Would he have accepted the suspension if Goodell had presented it differently?

“No, no,” Fujita said. “Because I haven’t done anything wrong.”

Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.