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Browns' Fujita calls league stance on hits hypocritical

by | Special to CBSSports.com
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Browns linebacker Scott Fujita isn't one to hold his tongue or mince words when it comes to league issues.

So it's no surprise that Fujita held nothing back Tuesday on my New Orleans-based radio show when it came to the league's new stance on potentially suspending players for helmet-to-helmet hits and the overall treatment of players when it comes to a possible 18-game season.

Fujita started by basically saying the league is being hypocritical for selling the big hit as part of the game, and now trying to suspend players for that big hit.

'Let's be honest, they don't give a crap [about our safety]' Scott Fujita says. (Getty Images)  
'Let's be honest, they don't give a crap [about our safety]' Scott Fujita says. (Getty Images)  
"The same league that's talking about fining players for these hits and talking about maybe now suspending players for these hits who pretends to care so much about our health and safety, let's be honest," Fujita said. "They don't give a crap. Let's be perfectly honest about that.

"Eighteen games is asking a lot. And 18 games now without even a discussion about changing the vesting requirements for post-career medical. It's pretty astonishing. Another thing, too. This league is talking so much about these big hits and how they're trying to prevent that and protect the players. Well these are the same big hits they're showing around the clock on every [channel], NFL Network and everything else and trying to get everyone hyped up about the game of football.

"Well why are you advertising all of this stuff if it's against the rules? Same thing with some of these celebration penalties and everything else. They're fining guys like crazy for it and calling penalties, but that's the stuff they use to promote their games. So to me, it's kind of a weird deal. They need to get on the same page and figure out exactly what they need to do."

Don't get Fujita wrong. He's all about the safety of the players. As for the consequences he is unsure.

"No one likes seeing guys knocked out game after game," Fujita said. "It's scary. It's scary for all of us. It's scary for our wives. Now I'm 31 years old. I have two kids. Every time my wife hears about someone in the league being knocked out, she's concerned about it.

"Whether the best thing is to suspend guys right now? I don't know. It's hard to make a clear-cut decision on whether something was an illegal hit or not or whether there was intent to do harm when guys are just really flying around trying to play football the way they have all of their lives."

Some of the hits many have pointed to were levied upon Fujita's teammates by Steelers linebacker James Harrison last Sunday.

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Fujita didn't feel the criticisms of Harrison's shots were justified. Fujita said even though people in Cleveland and around the NFL are in an uproar with Harrison's hits on the Browns' Mohamed Massaquoi and Josh Cribbs, Fujita said he felt like they were "pretty good defensive plays."

Harrison was fined $75,000 on Tuesday for his hits as a repeat offender. Also, defensive backs Brandon Meriweather of the Patriots and Dunta Robinson of the Falcons were fined $50,000 for what the league deemed objectionable hits.

Fujita said the possible new sanctions for defenders would most significantly affect safeties. Browns rookie safety T.J. Ward was penalized and fined for a hit on Bengals wide receiver Jordan Shipley that Fujita said was a textbook hit of how you're supposed to separate a guy from the ball. "I thought it was a pretty good hit," Fujita said.

Ward was fined $15,000 earlier this month.

Fujita said the league has given the players no input on the new potential suspensions.

"When you're running full speed at a guy, it's hard to change your trajectory angle," Fujita said. "It's difficult. Those guys at the safety position, they're safeties for a reason. They're there to prevent big plays. They are there to separate a guy from the ball. That's what they are supposed to do. I think their hands are kind of tied."

Fujita isn't naive to the violence of football. But he feels the league is naive in thinking with this level of violence that the players are willing to play an 18-game season with the current deal on the table.

"There's a whole lot more that needs to be had in this conversation," Fujita said. "I took a look at the proposal a couple of weeks ago from the league about the 18 games and based on that, we're not even close. There was no regard whatsoever for player health and safety. To me, that's something that's not negotiable. We have to take that part of it seriously.

"And another thing, no change in those vesting requirements? That's crazy. To play 18 games, obviously the career life span is going to go down. Right now it takes three years of playing to get five years of post medical. Well that's probably going to kick the [average] career length to less than three years playing 18 games a year. We need to have a much better conversation.

"It's not all about dollars and cents. I think that everyone thinks that the 18 games that the players want more money. I don't think you've ever heard one player say, 'Hey, we better get more money out of this.' We're saying, 'Hey, you better take health and safety more seriously than this because that's the biggest issue on the table.'"

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