A day after it was reported that Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita could face disciplinary action for his role in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty system, he was quoted in a Sports Illustrated article talking about just that.
Fujita and two other defensive leaders contributed between $2,000 and $10,000 to the pool of money, though Fujita says he never paid for any of his teammates to knock opponents out of games:
“Over the years, I’ve paid out a lot of money for big plays like interceptions, sacks and special teams tackles inside the 20,” Fujita told [Peter] King. “But I’ve never made a payment for intentionally injuring another player.”
It’s easy enough to believe that Fujita was paying teammates for making great plays, but it’s hard to fathom that he was unaware of where his money was going as part of the bounty pool. As a defensive leader, he surely had some knowledge of what was going on, and for that, he’s likely going to face a punishment.
Besides, rewarding a teammate for on-field performances is a violation of the NFL’s policy regarding “non-contract bonuses.” No one should be naive enough to think that anyone is actually adhering to that rule, but a bounty program certainly takes it to a degree that needs to be addressed.
As for Fujita, if he really had no knowledge of the bounty, and was only rewarding teammates for making big – but legal – plays, then it’s too bad that he got caught up in this. If not, then the NFL is about to make an example out of him and the rest of those involved.