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Fujita is suspended
May 2, 2012 - Mike McLain
The fallout from the scandal surrounding the New Orleans Saints' bounty system has reached as far as Cleveland.
Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, who played for the Saints when former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams deployed a system of paying players that injured opposing players, has been suspended three games by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Also suspended were current Saints Johnathan Vilma and Will Smith and current Green Bay Packer Anthony Hargrove. Vilma was suspended for the entire season. Hargrove and Smith will miss four games.
All players can appeal the commissioner's decision within three days. ESPN is reporting that all three plan to appeal.
Fujita will be allowed to participate in offseason practices and training camp. He can also play in preseason games.
The potential loss of Fujita for the first three games of the season will be felt at an area that lacks depth. When Fujita missed the final games of last season with a hand injury, his spot on the strong side was filled by Chris Gocong, who had been starting on the weak side. Kaluka Maiava moved in to replace Gocong.
The Browns did address linebacker during last week's NFL draft. They used a fourth-round pcik on James-Michael Johnson of the University of Nevada and a sixth-round pick on Emmanuel Cinedum Acho of the University of Texas.
Fujita is entering the final year of the three-year contract he signed during the offseason following the Saints' Super Bowl championship season in 2009.
The NFL's investigation 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 .Fujita had told to Sports Illustrated's Peter King that he directly paid teammates for big plays but not to hurt opponents and not as part of the bounty system. Three of Fujita's former teammates were also suspended: Jonathan Vilma for a year, to begin immediately; Anthony Hargrove eight games and Will Smith four games. All four players will appeal, according to ESPN. Browns linebacker Chris Gocong replaced Fujita at strongside 'backer last year when he missed the last five games with a hand injury and Kaluka Maiava replaced Gocong on the weak side.
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