On Tuesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell came out and announced some slight modifications to his original Saints Bountygate punishments.
Scott Fujita got his suspension reduced from three games to one game. Anthony Hargrove got his suspension reduced from eight games to seven games (which will get cut to two games when he gets signed by an NFL team). Jonathan Vilma’s punishment remained intact, but Goodell allowed him to keep all game checks received for weeks spent on the PUP. Will Smith’s suspension remained untouched.
After the suspensions were amended, Goodell apparently sent a letter to Fujita noting 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.”
As you would expect, Fujita did not respond well to that letter. Here is the statement he released today (by way of Adam Schefter):
I'm pleased the Commissioner has finally acknowledged that I never participated in any so-called "bounty" program, as I've said for the past 7 months. However, his condescending tone was neither accurate nor productive. Additionally, I am now purportedly being suspended for failing to confront my former defensive coordinator for his inappropriate use of language. This seems like an extremely desperate attempt to punish me. I also think it sets a bad 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.
For me, the issue of player health & safety is personal. For the league and the Commissioner, it's about perception & liability.
The Commissioner says he is disappointed in me. The truth is, I’m disappointed in him. His positions on player health and safety since a 2009 congressional hearing on concussions have been inconsistent at best. He failed to acknowledge a link between concussions & post-career brain disease, pushed for an 18-game regular season, committed to a full season of Thursday night games, has continually challenged players' rights to file workers compensation claims for on-the-job injuries, and he employed incompetent replacement officials for the start of the 2012 season. His actions or lack thereof are by the league’s own definition, “conduct detrimental”.
My track record on the issue of player health & safety speaks for itself. And clearly, as I just listed, the Commissioner's does too."
Where do we go from here? Federal court, most likely. Stay tuned, we’re still a long ways away from this being wrapped up.