Jonathan Vilma has grabbed his share of headlines this offseason, to the degree where it's easy to forget about the other three players punished in the New Orleans Saints' "bounty" case.
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Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, suspended for three games, was on hand for Monday's appeal hearing. He told SiriusXM's Edge of Sports Radio on Friday of a touchy run-in with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
"I saw him in the hearings, and he offered to shake all of our hands," Fujita said, via SI.com. "Some of the other players didn't, but I went ahead and shook his hand, and I just said to him, 'What the hell are you doing, Roger?' He had nothing to say. His face sure turned red, though."
Fujita has maintained his innocence from the start. He admits to contributing money for big plays under the leadership of former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, but never with the intent to injure. He isn't alone in questioning the league's evidence against those punished.
"I think it would've been nice to have the opportunity ... to try to talk it out and explain where the misinterpretations are, from their end," Fujita said. "I looked through all that stuff closely. I know exactly what (happened) and what didn't. The problem with this whole thing is that it's just an unfortunate situation where you have a defensive coordinator (Williams) who I like a lot, but said a lot of really vulgar, inappropriate, outlandish things. You couple that with some guys who occasionally throw in some money for big plays -- which I have admitted to doing -- and it becomes a perfect storm, and also it comes at a time politically when I think the league was looking for something like this.
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"So, it's unfortunate. It's unfortunate that a lot of players have been dragged into it when the reality is it's just a kind of loose, joking around, performance-type system of motivation coupled with some really, really inappropriate language that I'm sensitive to, but again, it is just language."
Fujita suggested Williams' fire-and-brimstone reveries are far from unusual in NFL locker rooms, but acknowledged the exiled coach had "his own way of explaining things, putting exclamations on things, which were probably pretty unique," but added, "everywhere I've been, there's been a lot of that."
It's clear Fujita's been stung by an offseason of accusations. He said his name was leaked to the media on the same day his wife gave birth to their daughter. That in itself is a reflection of what the Saints' 2009 Super Bowl journey has become, a season of beauty touched by a devouring fire.