BEREA, Ohio (AP) — With as much purpose as any tackle he's ever made, Scott Fujita delivered a shot to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Angered by Goodell's handling of the New Orleans Saints' bounties scandal, Fujita accused the commissioner of misusing his power, questioned his record on player safety, and the Browns linebacker vowed to keep fighting to clear his name.
"The commissioner says he is disappointed in me," Fujita said. "The truth is, I'm disappointed in him."
One day after Goodell reduced his three-game suspension to one for alleged involvement in the Saints' pay-for-hits program and ruled on the penalties for three other players, Fujita took on the commissioner in a strongly worded statement.
Fujita charged Goodell with "abuse of power" and expressed his displeasure with the way his suspension was lessened. On Tuesday, Goodell sent Fujita a letter in which he chastised the 10-year veteran and member of the NFL Players Association's executive committee for not doing more to stop his former teammates in New Orleans from taking part in the "bounty" program.
Goodell wrote to Fujita that he was "surprised and disappointed by the fact that you, a former defensive captain and a passionate advocate for player safety, ignored such a program and permitted it to continue. ... . If you had spoken up, perhaps other players would have refused to participate and the consequences with which we are now dealing could have been avoided."
Fujita was angered by the "condescending tone" in Goodell's letter — and most of its content.
"For him to come out and say he was disappointed in me for not standing up to my coach," Fujita said after practice Wednesday. "I haven't had someone tell me they were disappointed in me since I was 12 years old, and that was my father."
Fujita was pleased Goodell all but exonerated him from any involvement in the Saints' mess, but was incensed the commissioner felt it necessary to chastise him for not stepping in and trying to stop the rogue program.
"I thought it was uncalled for and inappropriate," Fujita said.
Fujita will appeal his one-game suspension and intends to play Sunday when the winless Browns (0-5) host the Cincinnati Bengals.
Fujita has maintained his innocence in the scandal since it first broke in March. Seven months later, Fujita hasn't changed his stance and felt a recent Sept. 28 meeting with Goodell was "respectful and productive," which is why he's puzzled the commissioner would come down so hard.
"I went in and no punches were thrown," Fujita said of meeting Goodell in New York. "Everybody was kind. So, yeah, I was a little bit taken aback by it. It didn't have to go there at all. It just felt like one more personal jab."
After reading Goodell's letter, Fujita said he began preparing a statement to rebuke the commissioner. Fujita's wife, Jaclyn, urged him to "cool down and sleep on it" before he sent something he would regret. For Fujita, Goodell's implication that he was hypocritical about player safety hurt most.