April 24, 2014

Fujita: NFL is Engaged in a “Public Smear Campaign” with Regard to Bounty Program

I’m not saying the NFL is intentionally lying. I’ve been willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they may have just been working with the information they’ve been given, even though much of that information was inaccurate and lacked credibility. It’s their cavalier interpretation of everything that’s been way off. They clearly proceeded with a public smear campaign with very little regard for the truth.

- Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita on the latest developments involving the New Orleans Saints bounty program. For his alleged involvement, Fujita has been suspended for the first three games of the 2012 season and continues to be one of the most outspoken opponents of the initial ruling. In response, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello stated that “nothing [Fujita] has asserted in his various public statements undermines the findings of the investigation.”

[Related: Pat Shurmur and the Burden of Proof]

(Source: Associated Press)

Scott Fujita: ‘What the hell are you doing, Roger?’

This week, there was quite the fallout from the players’ appeal meetings with Roger Goodell over the Saints bounty scandal. Each player walked out of the brief encounters firing away at Roger Goodell, including Browns linebacker Scott Fujita. The outspoken union leader spoke with Dave Zirin on SiriusXM and offered some more candid thoughts, describing how the frosty meetings went down and how the contentiousness between the players and the league has escalated:

“I saw him in the [appeal] hearings and he offered to shake all of our hands. Some of the other players didn’t, but I went ahead and shook his hand, and I just said to him, ‘What the hell are you doing, Roger?’ He had nothing to say. His face sure turned red, though.”

Fujita’s three-game suspension has not been overturned but both sides appear to have dug in their heels — the Commissioner’s right to suspend the players was upheld by an arbitrator, and he’s not altering his punishments. You can read his first full interview since the appeal with Zirin here.

[Related: Pat Shurmur and the Burden of Proof]

 

While We’re Waiting… Cleveland Fans, the Morning After

While We’re Waiting serves as the early morning gathering of WFNY-esque information for your viewing pleasure. Have something you think we should see? Send it to our tips email at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

“We can’t keep clinging to the past. We are drunk on our sorrows, telling and retelling stories in a masochistic whirlpool of despair. People tell each other where they were when LeBron made his decision, when Elway stepped under center, when Jorden lifted a jump shot in Richfield. We measure fanhood not by money spent but by tears shed. The “real” fans are those who have apparently suffered the most. It doesn’t have to be this way.

In many ways we are blessed. Yeah I said it. In 1965 the Indians almost relocated to Seattle. The Cavs endured one of the most inept owners of all time in Ted Steipen but made it through. We lost the Browns for three years but they came back. Teams don’t come back, just ask Seattle about the Sonics or Los Angeles about the Rams. We have been lucky in so many ways and I am grateful. I’m not ignorant of our struggles or our suffering, but that should not define us. We are so much more than a forty man roster or a starting five.” [Corey Barnes] [Read more...]

NFL to Allow Fujita et al to Appeal Bounty-based Suspension

Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and other players involved in the ongoing New Orleans Saints’ bounty program investigation will get their chance to appeal suspensions handed down by the NFL. Per reports, the league has set a June 18 date for Fujita, along with linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive ends Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith, to state their case in regard to their suspensions of of varying sizes and fines of varying amounts.

The players and the NFL Players Association have fought back, stating that league Commissioner Roger Goodell lacks the authority to suspend/fine players for activities that occurred before the new collective bargaining agreement was signed prior to the start of the 2011 season. Earlier this week, the suspended players saw an arbitrator reject the NFLPA’s other grievance, ruling Goodell was in his power.

Filmmaker Sean Pamphilon recently released a chronicle of text messages between he and Fujita, furthering the veteran linebacker’s involvement in the case. On Wednesday, reports ciruculated that Saints players Roman Harper and Jo-Lonn Dunbar each received cash payments for their involvement in plays that took place in a past playoff win over the Detroit Lions.

[Related: Pat Shurmur and the Burden of Proof]

Fujita suspension upheld as Goodell’s standing is confirmed

The first tactic to try and poke holes in Roger Goodell’s punishment of players for the Saints bounty program has failed. The first order was to try and claim that Roger Goodell didn’t have standing to punish players under the current form of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Specifically, the players were questioning whether the current CBA gave Goodell standing over actions that took place under prior agreements.

“System Arbitrator Stephen Burbank upheld the commissioner’s authority under the Collective Bargaining Agreement to impose ‘conduct detrimental’ discipline on players who provided or offered to provide financial incentives to injure opponents,”  the league explains.  ”He also upheld the commissioner’s authority to impose such discipline against players who obstructed a league investigation.  The System Arbitrator thus confirmed the commissioner’s authority to suspend Mr. Fujita, Mr. Smith and Mr. Vilma.  He invited the commissioner to clarify the precise basis for his discipline of Mr. Hargrove who, among other things, was found to have lied to the league’s investigators and obstructed their investigation.”

So the first path that Fujita and his fellow players have taken appears to be fruitless. We’ll see if they have any other ideas up their sleeve to get relief from the punishments handed down by Roger Goodell and the NFL.

Fair or not, it appears that short of suing the NFL in real court, Scott Fujita might just have to accept that he is subject to the whims of the Commissioner.

[Related: Browns fans shouldn’t pay for Saints bounty program]

NFL News: Browns’ Scott Fujita Appeals 3-Game Suspension

As expected, Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita has appealed a three-game suspension which had been handed down from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as a punishment for the player’s role in the New Orleans Saints bounty program.

Fujita, along with former teammates Johnathan Vilma, Will Smith and Anthony Hargrove, were all given punishments of various lengths roughly one week ago. Via the appeals, the players, their representatives and their union will continue to argue that the decision is not Goodell’s alone despite this exact item being collectively bargained during last season’s work stoppage.

“I disagree wholeheartedly with the discipline imposed,” Fujita said in a statement. “I’ve yet to hear the specifics of any allegation against me nor have I seen any evidence that supports what the NFL alleges. I look forward to the opportunity to confront what evidence they claim to have in an appropriate forum. [...] I have never contributed any money to any so-called ‘bounty’ pool and any statements to the contrary are false.”

Fujita, 33, has amassed 101 total tackles, four sacks and two interceptions over the past two seasons in Cleveland. In the event that the three-game suspension is upheld, it will cost Fujita  $644,118. He can participate in off-season and preseason activities, including games, with the Cleveland Browns.

[Related: Getting to know your new Cleveland Browns: Brad Smelley]

NFL News: Browns LB Scott Fujita Suspended Three Games

For his role in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita has been handed a three-game suspension from the National Football League.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated‘s Peter King, Fujita, a known philanthropist and well-respected veteran, said that while he contributed money for teammate performance and “big plays,” it was never in attempt to injure the opposition.

Fujita’s former teammate Johnathan Vilma has been suspended for the entire 2012 NFL season. Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith were suspended for eight games and four games, respectively. Usama Young, another former member of the New Orleans Saints, was not punished for his association.

Through two injury-plagued seasons with the Browns, Fujita, 33, has amassed 101 total tackles, four sacks and two interceptions. Having one of the worst run-stopping defenses in the NFL while employing a relatively older linebacking corps, the Browns used multiple 2012 NFL Draft selections on linebackers, James-Michael Johnson out of Nevada and Texas’ Emmanuel Acho.

Though suspended without pay for three games (costing him $644,118), Fujita can participate in offseason and preseason activities, including games, with the Cleveland Browns. The player is expected to appeal.

[Related: A few additional Browns post-draft thoughts]

Browns likely won’t know about potential punishment of two players before draft

According to a tweet by Adam Schefter, the Saints and any team that has players involved in the New Orleans bounty program, might not know what discipline is to be handed down until after the draft.

Text of the tweet- “An announcement on player discipline in Saints bounty scandal is “unlikely” for today. Again. have to wonder now if next week more likely”

The Browns have two defensive players on the roster that could face discipline. LB Scott Fujita and S Usama Young, both potential starters were part of the defense being investigated.

Could the punishment be severe enough that the Browns would need to adjust part of their draft strategy?

[Related: Goodell will "drop the hammer" on players involved in bounty scandal]

Report: Goodell will “drop the hammer” on players involved in bounty scandal

According to the NFL Network’s Dan Hanzus, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has decided punishment of individual players associated with the Saints’ ‘bounty’ program is warranted.

“In an appearance Tuesday on “The Rich Eisen Podcast,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said “evidence was clear that the players embraced it” in regard to the Saints’ pay-for-performance scheme.

Goodell added: “I don’t think they are absolved from responsibility.” Translation: Prepare for the hammer drop.

Goodell said player discipline will be coming “soon” and rejected the defense that those involved were “just following orders” of Gregg Williams.”

The Browns have two players- Scott Fujita and Usama Young that played for the Saints during that time period. Fujita, has gone on record as saying he contributed to extra incentive payouts as a member of the Saints, though he denies ever contributing for intentionally injuring another player.

It is hard to imagine a situation in which Fujita isn’t part of the discipline handed down by Goodell.

[Related: Fujita on the NFL and player safety "The hypocrisy infuriates me"]

Browns fans shouldn’t pay for Saints bounty program

As the New Orleans Saints scramble to make plans for Sean Payton’s year off from the game (possibly by talking to Bill Parcells) the players who played with the Saints from 2009 – 2011 wait for punishments to be handed down. As is the case with Scott Fujita and the Browns, they have to wait to pay the piper for sins that occurred under a completely different organizational umbrella. While Scott Fujita is a man who made choices and presumably earned some form of punishment, it seems rather odd that that punishment could end up being felt in Berea and all around the country wherever Cleveland Browns fans choose to roam.

So, is there a way for the player to be punished while not punishing the fans of a new team in a new organization that presumably had their house in order, at least with respect to bounty programs? I think there is. [Read more...]

While We’re Waiting… Holmgren’s role, Thompson’s flaw and more gigantic Tribe minor league food

While We’re Waiting serves as the early morning gathering of WFNY-esque information for your viewing pleasure. Have something you think we should see? Send it to our tips email at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

“Perhaps the overall organizational strategy could have been amended to include the possibility of blowing up the future to land “one really talented player.” But then again, it’s worth asking the question: just what does Mike Holmgren do for the Browns? According to Holmgren:

“My definition of my role is hire good people and support them the best I can. That’s why I don’t do press conferences. That’s why I don’t have a radio show. I’ve done that for 25 years. I support my people behind the scenes. We have a very competent young coach who will be here for a long time.” -Mike Holmgren – 12/14/11 Yet it seems that all Holmgren does is hold press conferences – especially during moments where the Browns’ collective fan base is about to melt down. In the case of not securing the rights to draft Griffin, Holmgren offered a salve that showed his inherited team is relevant in a league currently measured in offseason marketability. To this point, Holmgren serves as nothing more than a PR spinster who specializes in damage control.” [Kolonich/Orange and Brown Report] [Read more...]

Roger Goodell drops the hammer on the Saints for Bountygate

All that was left was to find out the punishments. According to reports that are threatening to break Twitter as we speak, the punishments are harsh. Whether of not they are too harsh is for you to decide.

Adam Schefter reports via twitter that the punishments are as follows:

  • Saints head coach Sean Payton is suspended for a year effective April 1st, 2012
  • Saints lose two second-round draft choices 2012, and 2013 and are fined $500,000
  • Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (now with Rams) is suspended indefinitely
  • Saints executive Mickey Loomis suspended eight games and fined $500,000
  • Saints assistant coach Joe Vitt suspended six games and fined $100,000

Obviously the big story for Browns fans is what is coming for players. At this point Scott Fujita is claiming to be relatively innocent in comparison to the ugliest of the allegations, but we’ll have to see. We aren’t privy to the results of the league’s investigation.

What we do know is that Fujita was involved and the league quite obviously wants to make an example out of this case to avoid it ever happening again. That could spell some seriously missed time for Fujita and a serious hole in the Browns’ defense. While Fujita is aging, the defense played noticeably worse in each of the last two seasons after he got injured.

[Related: Fujita implicated in Saints bounty investigation]

Fujita on the NFL and Player Safety: “The hypocrisy infuriates me.”

Scott Fujita is embroiled in the NFL’s bounty controversy as a former member of the New Orleans Saints. Fujita spoke to Peter King in an effort to set the record straight that he paid out for “interceptions, sacks and special teams tackles inside the 20,” rather than plays where guys were injured or knocked out of the game.

It is important for Fujita to be out front on this, because he was more than willing to be out front during the lockout calling out the owners for hypocrisy on player safety issues. This is from a letter he wrote that was re-printed on websites across the country including his own.

And this season, when it comes to player safety, the NFL suddenly pretended to be the flag-bearers for our health and well-being. This comes after years of denying even the possibility of a link between the game of football, concussions, and long-term traumatic brain injury. And despite the raised level of awareness concerning our post-career health realities, they still want two more games and haven’t even suggested any improvements in post-career care. Their hypocrisy infuriates me. Right now we get just five years of coverage after leaving this game. Five. And that’s only if you’re lucky enough to become vested. In the meantime, more and more of our brothers fall victim to ALS, dementia and depression, among other afflictions. My heart screams for these men. Add to that the hip and knee replacements that are sure to come up 10, 15, 20 years after we stop playing. And through the whole PR battle that’s currently being waged, in what some are calling a battle of greed between “millionaires and billionaires,” the players have asked for nothing. Ultimately, we just want to be taken care of after we leave this game.

My message to the NFL: You say you care about us… Now please, prove it. For the sake of guys like Andre Waters, O.J. Brigance, Orlando Thomas, Earl Campbell and Mike Webster… prove it.

I can’t say that I don’t believe Scott Fujita when he says that stuff, but depending on the results of this investigation with the NFL and the Saints, it will make or break Scott Fujita in terms of his legacy. He’ll get the benefit of the doubt for now. Remember his wife also weighed in with an emotional piece of writing of her own that tugged at heart strings as players jockeyed for position in the P.R. war with owners.

But the day will come when they decide to walk away from the sport they played for the last twenty years of their lives. The sport which taught them to play through pain, to never complain, to never stop, to yell, to scream, to hit, to fight, to destroy the man in front of them, to work until they puke, to lay their body on the line every Sunday and just hope that they walk off that field and aren’t carried. That day will come when they leave this game—the game that used them and abused them, yet the game they loved so passionately.

Each man will walk away thinking that if his knees are to give out, hopefully it happens in the next five years before his health coverage expires. And if he has to cover himself with money from his own pocket, he will hope it doesn’t break him. Insurance companies aren’t looking to cover the ten-year veteran pro football player with the pounding migraines and ALS or severe depression that could be lurking just around the corner. His knees and back are sure to give out faster than the average person, and he may lose his mind due to all the concussions.

And here they are, simply asking the men who profit from their work, to please look after their health, as they should have done throughout their career. They ask this so that someday, the young boy who chooses this path knows he will be protected the way he deserves.

Of course, I’ve already weighed in on the bounty thing and how I can’t stand false outrage. Still, as we start to see this thing come in to focus, it is important to know how importantly health issues weighed on the lockout from the players’ point of view.

 

Report: Fujita contributed to extra payouts while a member of the Saints

According to a story by Peter King of Sports Illustrated, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita contributed money for extra incentive while a member of the New Orleans Saints. Here is the relevant piece on Fujita-

“On Sunday, Fujita said, “Over the years I’ve paid out a lot of money for big plays like interceptions, sacks and special teams tackles inside the 20. But I’ve never made a payment for intentionally injuring another player.” Fujita said he didn’t think he ever put money into a collective pot; rather when a teammate made a play, Fujita handed him the money he’d promised.”

King continued-

“Fujita’s name in the investigation is noteworthy. After signing with the Browns as a free agent a month after the Super Bowl win, he accepted a nomination to the NFL Players Association’s executive board. During the 2011 negotiations on the new 10-year collective bargaining agreement, he and former Cardinals and Steelers special teams star Sean Morey pushed hard for improvements in working conditions, including fewer full-contact practices during the season. It was Fujita’s emphasis on health care for former players who have debilitating illnesses, such as close friend and former Saints safety Steve Gleason, who suffers from ALS, that helped persuade the two sides to include lifetime care for ex-players with that disease. It’s hard to reconcile Fujita’s being part of the problem in 2009 and part of the solution in 2011.”

“You don’t spend time with guys like Sean Morey and other former players, or have close friends whose health fails them, possibly because of this game, and not be affected by that,” Fujita said. “I wanted to be part of the paradigm shift.”

The investigation by the NFL is ongoing.

[Related: Bounties are wrong, but it doesn’t really bother me that much]

Report: Browns LB Scott Fujita Implicated in Saints Bounty Allegations

Amidst the whirlwind of implications surrounding former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Greg Williams and a “bounty” program, we have a report that includes current Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that Fujita is one of several players who had allegeldy obtained additional benefits as a part of the Saints much-discussed  program which paid players for intentionally injuring the opposition, specifically geared toward quarterbacks. Fujita, an NFLPA member and well-renowned philanthropist, may find himself in a tough position as he was one of the individuals who went to bat for the players during the recent lockout, aiming to improve health benefits beyond the field of play.

The 32-year-old linebacker played in New Orleans between 2006-2009 and was named Saints “Man of the Year” in 2009 due to his work with variable charities.

It is anticipated that additional player names will bubble up as this situation unfolds. Additional details are assured to follow.

[Related: Bounties are wrong, but it doesn’t really bother me that much]

The Best Browns Since 1999 – Linebackers

Inside linebacker hasn’t been a position of strength overall for the Browns since 1999.  They’ve had some solid players and some very good players, but they’ve lacked a superstar.  Still, in Browns fans minds the choices were pretty clear.  D’Qwell Jackson scored over 2700 first place votes while Andra Davis came in a distant second with 661.  Davis crushed the competition with 1568 second place votes with Jackson taking 720 and Chris Gocong scoring 485 votes. [Read more...]

Cleveland Sports Quick Hitters

What do you do with those little pieces of news and information that really don’t warrant a full blown post? You bundle ‘em. I give you my Cleveland Sports Quick Hitters for the week-

- Josh Cribbs is in the local news again, for comments about being sick of losing after the Cincinnati game. This is of course the second time this season he’s made comments like this. Despite the coach saying yesterday he has no beef with Josh, sports radio types want to hang Cribbs out to dry for causing chaos in the locker room.

My take: You can’t have it both ways. You can’t want a guy to be honest and feel the same as the fans do, and then call him out for expressing that same opinion. Cribbs has built up a tremendous amount of respect around here for being a guy willing to do whatever it takes to win games. He gets the benefit of the doubt here.

- Scott Fujita needs surgery on his hand, and was placed on injured reserve, ending his season. Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said Maiava will likely start, and that he believes Maiava has a chance to be a starter down the road in this defense.

My take: Of course he said Maiava has a chance to start down the road. He has to show confidence in the player. If Maiava is your starter going into next season, then we haven’t solved the LB issues. [Read more...]

Browns React to Fan Reaction

The frustration is alive and well.  I would call it paramount, but this football team we root for each and every Sunday between August and early January continues to surprise us all when it comes to ways in which a team finds itself on the losing side of the outcome ledger. And with the continually evolving mediums that allow fans to voice their various levels of displeasure, the team is able to hear it. Very loud and very clear.

Following Sunday’s contest, Browns return man and wide receiver Josh Cribbs was as frustrated as anyone.  Emotionally fresh off of the defeat, he called the one-point loss “embarrassing,” questioning why the fans continue to come out each and every Sunday to support a product that continues to reach new lows. “We try to win for our fans,” he said. “It’s hard for us to even ask [Cleveland fans] to root for us even though they do anyway. I respect them a hell of a lot more now.”

[Read more...]

NFL Injury Update: Browns Anticipate Return of Hillis, Fujita

One week after providing career-highs for Montario Hardesty, the Cleveland Browns believe that starting running back Peyton Hillis will join the team for their Week 8 game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Hillis missed his second game this season after sustaining a hamstring injury during the team’s Week 6 loss in Oakland.  In his place, Hardesty ran the ball 33 times for 95 yards, and caught two passes for 27 yards as the Browns topped the Seattle Seahawks to the tune of 6-3.  In turn, the Browns added running back Chris Ogbonnaya to provide depth with the former Texas product responding with 15 yards on the ground (three attempts) while leading the team in receiving (five catches for 43 yards), potentially leading to a role in third-down situations.  [Read more...]

On the Bright Side, The Browns Defense

The Browns definitely missed Joe Haden yesterday.  Dimitri Patterson gave Raiders receivers a bit too much room and they made some catches in front of him.  That being said, the horror story that could have been written about the day the Browns were without Joe Haden wasn’t written because Patterson proved to be an adequate backup.  You don’t expect a guy to come in and replace a first round talent like Joe Haden.  You assume there will be a dropoff.  The quality of the backup is measured by how much of a dropoff it appears to be.  In this case, Dimitri Patterson did a fine job, I thought.  That’s the way I felt about the whole defense yesterday.

They got gashed badly on the Raiders’ first drive.  McFadden set the tone on the first play as he went for 24 yards.  The Raiders moved methodically after that.  Well, it helps to be methodical when you burn two timeouts on your opening drive, I guess.  The Raiders finally capped the 88-yarder off with a McFadden running score and a seven point lead.  That was really the only meaningful drive the Browns defense gave up all day.  The Raiders scored on a kickoff return and a fake field goal following a fumble.  Other than the one long drive to open the game, the Browns gave up a Janikowski field goal, but there is no shame in that. [Read more...]