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September 7, 2012 - Mike McLain
A three-person arbitration panel has overturned the suspensions levied by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell involving players reportedly involved in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal, including Browns outside linebacker Scott Fujita.
The decision means that Fujita, Saints linebacker Jonatahn Vilma, Saints defensive lineman Will Smith and Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove are eligible to play in Sunday's games. Fujita's suspension would have been for three weeks. Vilma was suspended for the entire season; Smith for four games and Hargrove for eight games.
The NFL's only recourse would seem to be a lawsuit. That would be costly and lengthy.
It's good news for the Browns, who are woefully weak in linebacker depth. Chris Gocong is gone for the season with a torn Achilles' tendon, which means a start for Kaluka Maiava against the Philadelphia Eagles. Rookie James-Michael Johnson, who would have started in Fujita's place, won't play because an oblique injury. That would have required rookie free agent L.J. Fort to start.
Fujita can now start, assuming he's healthy and coach Pat Shurmur believes he's mentally ready. Fujita, however, missed the final three preseason games with a knee injury suffered against the Detroit Lions in the first preseason game. He retured to practice last week to do some running but wasn't a part of team drills. He hasn't been on team property since the end of last week, when his suspension began.
"I think we’re talking about hypothetical stuff," Shurmur said Friday before learning of the panel's decision. "I’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. We’ve got up until right before game time to put the roster together, but I don’t see any reason why he can’t play.”
MODELL TRIBUTE: The Browns announced plans to honor former team owner Art Modell Sunday. Modell, who owned the Browns from 1961 until moving the franchise to Baltimore after the 1995 season, died last Thursday at age 87.
“We're trying strike the right balance,' Browns spokesman Neal Gulkis said. "We want to show respect and dignity for Modell's family, the community and the fans.'
We're trying strike the right balance,' Browns spokesman Neal Gulkis said today. "We want to show respect and dignity for Modell's family, the community and the fans.'
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