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Packers can absorb loss of Hargrove; Browns lose leader Fujita

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Paul Spinelli/AP
Defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove will miss eight games in 2012, but the Packers are prepared for his absence.

The NFL has handed down its punishment for the Saints' bounty program, administering serious discipline on four players. The reality for those still with the Saints -- Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith -- is well documented by now. New Orleans seems to have been preparing for their loss on some level.

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But what about the two players no longer with the Saints?

The Packers signed defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove in the offseason, and he's facing an eight-game suspension for his involvement in this scandal. And linebacker Scott Fujita has been starting for the Browns since 2010, but he was suspended three games for his role in the 2009 program. Here's a look at how those teams are prepared for the loss:

• Packers: Green Bay acted as if it expected a suspension for Hargrove all along. Slated to be a second-string defensive end, Hargrove signed a low-priced, one-year deal. He was expected to add depth, but the Packers weren't counting on him to be a full-time player.

In addition, Green Bay drafted two defensive linemen, including Michigan State's Jerel Worthy in the second round. Worthy could take snaps Hargrove might have taken, and that should help his development. The same can be said for Iowa's Mike Daniels, a fourth-rounder. End Jarius Wynn showed signs of being a productive player in four starts last year, and he'll need to emerge over the first eight games.

It certainly won't help that end Mike Neal was suspended for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances, but the Packers should be able to manage.

• Browns: Fujita's suspension isn't as lengthy as Hargrove's, and Cleveland does have experience putting out a starting lineup that doesn't include the strong-side backer in it. Last year, for instance, weakside linebacker Chris Gocong functioned in Fujita's place when Fujita had a hand injury, causing a minor lineup juggle. That shouldn't be difficult to do for three games.

Similar to the Packers, the Browns protected themselves in the draft. They selected Texas linebacker Emmanuel Acho in the sixth round, and he is a tackling machine at every linebacker spot. Or, it could be fourth-rounder James-Michael Johnson from Nevada.

The impact of losing Fujita could go further than what happens between the whistles, however. Fujita is also a team leader for the young defense, and his contributions on a daily basis will be missed in the season's opening month.

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @rapsheet

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