“It’s just a power-run-amok situation,” he said. “Obviously, the scope of the conduct-detrimental powers that have been afforded him are broad, but there has been clear abuse of power that has been afforded to him.”
In his statement, Fujita said Goodell’s new ruling “seems like an extremely desperate attempt to punish me. I also think it sets a dangerous precedent when players can be disciplined for not challenging the behavior of their superiors. This is an absolute abuse of the power that’s been afforded to the Commissioner.”
Vilma will sit out the entire season and Smith’s punishment stands at four games. Hargrove, a free agent defensive lineman, will face a two-game suspension once he signs with a team. He originally was hit with eight games, but that was reduced to seven with five games already served.
The players were implicated in what the NFL said was a bounty pool run by former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and paid improper cash bonuses for hits that injured opponents. The players have acknowledged a pool but denied they intended to injure anyone.
Fujita insists the bounty program never existed.
Goodell’s new ruling comes about a month after an appeals panel created by the NFL’s labor agreement vacated the original suspensions on technical grounds during Week 1 of the regular season. The panel informed Goodell he needed to clarify the reasons for the punishment.
Fujita feels a personal connection to the player safety issue. He was at the bargaining table for the players during contract talks when they successfully fought for changes. Fujita’s close friend and former Saints teammate Steve Gleason is afflicted with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, an incurable disease that medical studies say could be lined to head injuries.
“This is how I feel about things,” he said with a shrug. “I’ve been very clear about it since back in March, so I don’t think it could get any worse.”
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this story.
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