Reporting Daryl Ruiter
BEREA (92.3 The Fan) - Scott Fujita has spent the last 6 months fighting NFL commissioner Roger Goodell over bountygate.
He now fights himself and the urge to try to return to the field after a neck injury has ended his season just 7 weeks into his 11th year.
“I’m not ready to answer that question yet,” Fujita said of the possibility of retiring. “It’s still too early, I’m still digesting the news of being put on IR and the injury and everything else so it’s a little too early to rush into a decision like that.
“I need time, I need to breath a little bit, get back with my family and keep all options open with my doctors in time.”
Dressed in a Browns throwback t-shirt and an Indians hat while standing in the middle of the locker room Friday afternoon, Fujita expressed his disappointment that his season is over – and quite possibly his career.
“It’s a shame that it had to come down this way,” Fujita said. “You think about the end and because of that I think you appreciate your moments at work, which is good. I think it’s better to walk away, if this is the end for me, missing it and being sad about it than pissed off and angry and all that. I feel great about the relationships. I feel great about the collective body of work for me here and other places.
“I’m just sad right now.”
He admitted that even though he knows the risks of taking the field again, which could include paralysis, giving up playing football is extremely difficult for him to do.
“I get the big-picture part of it, but we’re all wired a certain way,” Fujita said. “I think a lot of us our smart guys, but we don’t always have the most common sense. We’re just wired a certain way. It’s something special about this game. I love this game. It’s been good to me, and it’s something about crossing the white lines with 10 of your buddies, looking in the same direction, locking jaws, locking arms and saying, ‘All right, let’s go.’
“There’s something special about that, and that’s why we play this game.”
Following the week 5 loss at New York, the Browns made Fujita, who was playing through pain, get further medical testing – including an MRI.
He didn’t even want to tell his wife about the tests.
“To be perfectly honest I really didn’t want to get one because I had a feeling it was going to be a problem again,” Fujita said. “They talked me into it because the symptoms persisted. They went in and there were issues in there. It was about doing the smart thing and it was a collective decision.
“I am thankful I have coaches, trainers and doctors who are looking out more for the person than the player and that’s important and I appreciate that. I would like to avoid being on the operating table again.”
The Browns plan to put Fujita on injured reserve. D’Qwell Jackson and Phil Dawson named him an honorary captain for Sunday’s game against San Diego.
Fujita had surgery 13 years ago while in college and has been able to play symptom free since – until now.
It’s been a tumultuous year for Fujita, his family and former teammates.
He was accused of participating in former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ pay-to-injure scheme while a member of the Saints in 2009. Fujita has fought long and hard to clear his name – and he has.
If this is the end for him as a player, it is a tough way to leave the game.
“We don’t always get what we want,” Fujita said. “If we all got what we wanted all of this stuff I’ve been dealing with would be handled months ago and we’d be 5-2 or 6-1 or 7-0. So you don’t always get what you want. You deal with what you’ve got and you do your best.
“I’m certainly disappointed and, like I said, even though I’m at peace with this and I know it’s the right call, I’m sad.”
His 3-game suspension was reduced to 1 as the battle between the 4 players and Goodell rages on but Fujita is not sure if he’ll continue the fight off the field.
“Honestly, that couldn’t be further from my mind right now,” Fujita said. “I feel like I fought that fight the best I can. I felt like I came out [on] the good side of it. They admitted publicly I had nothing to do with any of that. I feel good about that and where it’s at. Now it’s just a matter of whether I want to fight this silly re determination that I didn’t stand up to my coach.
“At this point I don’t give it that much thought. I put all my cards on the table and I feel good about the way I fought that.”
His biggest regret is the final result.
After signing a 3-year, $12 million deal as a free agent in 2010, he ended all 3 years on IR and the Browns as a team only won 10 games.
“We didn’t win enough games, that’s what’s clear,” Fujita said. “They say Believeland around here. I do honestly believe this team is headed in the right direction. I love the young guys around here. I feel good about where we were a couple years ago and where we are now in spite of the record. It’s a lot more functional as an organization.”
As for his future, the sky is the limit for Fujita who will serve the remaining time left as a member of the NFLPA’s executive committee.
Teaching and coaching after football are considerations for one of the most outspoken, well spoken and thought provoking players in the game.
“I’ve got a lot of options,” Fujita said. “If this is the end for me, then I’ll have plenty of options. I’ve got a master’s degree in education and I’ve always had the itch to go back and teach. I’d probably look forward to that in a couple of years.
“I have some things back home that I could jump right into as well. So I don’t know, but I’ll have options.”