Is there a silver lining to Fujita’s suspension?
The Cleveland Browns now know they will be without Scott Fujita for three games this fall, as the NFL announced on Tuesday that the veteran linebacker and three other players have been suspended without pay for conduct detrimental to the NFL as a result of their leadership roles in the “bounty” program that ran in New Orleans from 2009 to 2011.
“It is the obligation of everyone, including the players on the field, to ensure that rules designed to promote player safety, fair play, and the integrity of the game are adhered to and effectively and consistently enforced,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Respect for the men that play the game starts with the way players conduct themselves with each other on the field.”
According to an NFL statement announcing the suspensions: “The record established that Fujita, a linebacker, pledged a significant amount of money to the prohibited pay-for-performance/bounty pool during the 2009 NFL Playoffs when he played for the Saints. The pool to which he pledged paid large cash rewards for “cart-offs” and “knockouts,” plays during which an opposing player was injured.”
“We will respect the Commissioner’s decision,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said in a statement. “Scott is a valued member of the Cleveland Browns, and we look forward to his participation in our offseason program and training camp.”
While it is unfortunate that the Browns will be without one of the starting linebackers for the first three games of the season, this could work out to their advantage.
Fujita only played nine games in 2010 and 10 games in 2011 because of injuries. Having him out for the first three games will give him time to heal and hopefully help keep him injury free in the last month of the season.
This is also gives the Browns an opportunity to give extra reps in training camp to rookie linebackers James-Michael Johnson and Emmanuel Acho. Anything the coaches can do to accelerate the learning curve for Johnson and Acho can only be good.
Johnson was a four-year starter at Nevada. Over the last two years, Johnson had 105 solo tackles, five sacks and 16 tackles for loss.
“I’m an athletic linebacker,” Johnson said when he was drafted. “I’m an instinctive linebacker. I come downhill. I can guard man-to-man out of the backfield. I can guard the tight end man-to-man. I’m a competitor. I just love the game of football and I love to play hard. I love making a big play and sparking my defense. That is one of the things I most love about playing linebacker. The amount of good plays that you can make in a game can change a lot of things and can have a big difference on the outcome of the game. That’s what I love to do.”
Acho had 64 solo tackles, 19 tackles for loss and three sacks as a senior at the University of Texas.
“I think my football IQ is what separates me from my peers,” Acho said when he was drafted. “I believe I am extremely intelligent, not only off the field, but on the field as well and I think that is what differentiates me. I am able to analyze and dissect plays very quickly and I think that is what will help me at the next level. As far as what I need to work on, clearly adjusting to the speed of the NFL game, the caliber of talent at the NFL level and then just continuing to get bigger and stronger and faster as well.”
See, we knew there was a silver lining in there somewhere.