Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

NFL upholds suspension of Fujita, three others

Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita was among four players notified Tuesday that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has upheld the player discipline that was imposed on the players for their involvement in New Orleans’ bounty program.

Fujita is suspended for three games, Will Smith four games, Anthony Hargrove eight games and Jonathan Vilma for the entire season. Goodell said he retains the right to reduce suspensions should new facts arise, and the each player still is free to meet with him to present his side of the story.
“Throughout this entire process, including your appeals, and despite repeated invitations and encouragement to do so, none of you has offered any evidence that would warrant reconsideration of your suspensions. Instead, you elected not to participate meaningfully in the appeal process…” Goodell wrote in a letter to the players, according to
“Although you claimed to have been ‘wrongfully accused with insufficient evidence,’ your lawyers elected not to ask a single question of the principal investigators, both of whom were present at the hearing (as your lawyers had requested); you elected not to testify or to make any substantive statement, written or oral, in support of your appeal; you elected not to call a single witness to support your appeal; and you elected not to introduce a single exhibit addressing the merits of your appeal. Instead, your lawyers raised a series of jurisdictional and procedural objections that generally ignore the CBA, in particular its provisions governing ‘conduct detrimental’ determinations.”
The NFL Players Association also released a statement:
“The players are disappointed with the League’s conduct during this process. We reiterate our concerns about the lack of fair due process, lack of integrity of the investigation and lack of the jurisdictional authority to impose discipline under the collective bargaining agreement. Moreover, the Commissioner took actions during this process that rendered it impossible for him to be an impartial arbitrator.
“The NFLPA has never and will never condone dangerous or reckless conduct in football and to date, nothing the League has provided proves these players were participants in a pay-to-injure program. We will continue to pursue all options.”

It stinks that the Browns have to pay for something that happened when Fujita was part of the Saints, but at least they have all of training camp and the preseason to get someone ready. And like last year, when Fujita missed time with an injury, Chris Gocong will move to the strong side and Kaluka Maiava will get first shot at the weak side position. Rookies James-Michael Johnson and Emmanuel Acho also have a chance to earn playing time.

“Right now, that’s where we stand,” Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron told The Beacon Journal. “Then we’ll see what happens in training camp. A lot of things can happen, but (the coaches) love Kaluka. He’s a totally team-oriented guy.

“James-Michael Johnson’s a really good athlete, works hard at it, compact, good size, great attitude. Acho’s a great attitude guy, really, really smart. Emmanuel’s very, very smart, can make the calls, really into the thing, a note taker, very aware.”

(Photo by The Associated Press)

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