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Former Browns linebacker Eric Barton added, “Most people in the room were like, this guy (the commissioner) is full of it and Scott just called him out, and it was almost like, `Oh, Scott, you’re going to be in trouble.’”
After seeing evidence the NFL presented against him in last week’s appeal hearing on the four players’ suspensions, Fujita has more questions:
_ Why has the NFL linked him to bounties in its public statements, while its disciplinary letter announcing his suspension acknowledges there is no evidence he “pledged money toward a specific bounty” on a particular player?
_ Why does that same letter state he was a member of the Saints in the 2010 season, when he was with Cleveland? And what does that say about the quality of the investigation?
_ If the investigation was going on for parts of three years, why did no one contact him before the league’s first report in March?
_ Why did Goodell twice call his personal phone after union attorneys notified the NFL they were representing Fujita, meaning Goodell was not supposed to call him without an NFLPA attorney on the line?
Aiello responded that while the NFL never accused Fujita of targeting a specific opponent, his discipline letter clearly stated “that he contributed a significant sum to the general pool that included payments for nonspecific bounties in the form of `cart-offs’ and `knockouts.’”
“Every individual that was eventually disciplined was invited to speak to our office prior to any decision on discipline,” Aiello said. “None of the players, including Mr. Fujita, agreed to be interviewed during the process.”
Aiello added that Goodell’s calls to Fujita were in response to calls Fujita had placed to Goodell, but the NFLPA said Goodell should not have been making personal calls to players facing punishment at that point.
“It’s inappropriate. It is completely outside legal conduct rules,” NFLPA lawyer Heather McPhee said. “You cannot directly contact a represented party when you know a party’s represented and it’s especially odd in this case when Roger purports to be the judge. Picture a judge getting on the phone with a defendant or a suspect.”
After the second call, McPhee emailed NFL counsel Jeff Pash and Goodell, saying Fujita would be happy to talk with Goodell with counsel present, but there was no further communication, and Fujita learned days later he’d been suspended.
Fujita said his only chance to speak with Goodell directly came in early March after the release of the initial bounty report, which did not identify players, although Fujita’s name had been leaked. Fujita said he called Goodell to explain locker room culture as it relates to tough talk and informal performance incentives, and how it could be misconstrued.
Fujita acknowledges he offered teammates cash for big plays, mainly because “that’s the way it was done when I was a young player and I kind of looked at that as paying it forward.”
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