Scott Fujita breaks down Trent Richardson deal

There’s has been a very wide range of opinions on the trade of Trent Richardson by the Browns to the Colts. As a Browns fan I was shocked at first like everyone else, but when I thought about it the deal made a lot of sense. Richardson is a good back and he’s a physical specimen, but he has not lived up to the hype of the third overall pick and he’s very injury prone. He dances way too much behind the line and often either doesn’t hit the right hole or doesn’t hit a hole at all.

On the other hand, it also can make sense for the Colts, who have a franchise quarterback and now add a running back to the mix with a high ceiling. It just remains to be seen if Richardson can improve. Most great NFL backs are great right away. It’s not like the quarterback position where experience is critical.

One very interesting take comes from Scott Fujita, who is already establishing himself as one of the most honest and insightful NFL commentators out there.

I can’t speculate about what’s in any one person’s head, but when a player enters the league wearing headphones incessantly, shows up late for treatments, and makes little effort to engage with his teammates, he can quickly develop a reputation for being insular and high-maintenance.

It can be perceived that he isn’t happy and that he’s not making an effort to buy in. I’ve seen this happen countless times, especially in today’s head down, keep-things-to-yourself culture.

Generally, you hope the player grows out of that coming into his second season, especially when there’s been a complete regime change and everyone is expected to prove themselves all over again. Some players buy in, and some don’t. Buy-in, even if it’s just perceived, goes a long way. You have to be willing to show you want to be part of the team.

I have no idea what took place during Thursday morning’s team meeting in Berea, the first since the trade was announced the previous afternoon. But my sense tells me a message was sent, loud and clear, even if nothing was spoken: No one is guaranteed a spot on this team. No one is bigger than the team. If you don’t buy in, you don’t belong on this team.

Maybe it’s just a personality thing, but was Richardson the type of player to work hard and improve? The new coaching staff gave up on him two games in a row in the second half after he had trouble in the new offense.

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Scott Fujita donates playoff earnings to charity, Haiti & New Orleans

If the below story doesn’t get your heart warmed up this morning, I don’t know what will.

From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Fujita has decided to donate half of his $82,000 in NFL playoff earnings to two causes, one of which is coastal restoration.

His reasons?

“The people of this city and region have been so good to me and my family that we just felt strongly about doing something to protect the city we have come to love so much, ” Fujita said. “And helping on the coastal issue has been on the back of my mind since I first got here.”

“You always hear about southern hospitality, but I experienced it from my first days here, ” Fujita recalled. “I was living in a residence hotel for the first few weeks while we looked for a place in town, and spent that time just walking around the city and bar hopping, getting to know the place.

“Well, when people found out I was moving here from another city, I couldn’t pay for a drink. They didn’t know I was an NFL player. They just knew I was a guy who had come to join them, and that was it – I was a hero. I don’t think I paid for a drink for the first three or four weeks.”

“Jaclyn and I were looking not just for a cause to donate to, but more importantly something we believe in, something we think we could actually make a difference in by using the visibility of the New Orleans Saints, ” he said. “And the coastal issue had been in the back of my mind almost since I got here.”

Keep in mind that this is the same Scott Fujita that won’t be playing in New Orleans anymore after signing a free agent contract with the Browns over the weekend. Outside of playing for the Saints, he has no ties to New Orleans (he grew up in California), yet he still recognized what the city did for him and wanted to help out in any way he could.

I’m never one to suggest that athletes have to donate because it’s their money – they can do whatever they want with it. But for a player like Fujita to donate all of his playoff earnings the way he did just shows what a class act he is.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Browns sign Fujita, Pashos – is Troy Smith on the way?

The Browns signed a pair of free agents over the weekend, inking deals with linebacker Scott Fujita (three years, $16 million) and right tackle Tony Pashos (three years, $10.3 million).

The signing of Fujita probably signals the end of Eric Barton’s short tenure in Cleveland. The former New Orleans outside linebacker will play inside in Eric Mangini’s 3-4 defense and should do well at that position. While he’s an unspectacular player (i.e. he’s not going to make a ton of highlight reel plays), Fujita is fundamentally sound and plays the run extremely well.

Pashos will replace John St. Clair, who struggled mightily last year. With the Browns ready to transition to a power running game under Mike Holmgren, Pashos is a good fit because he’s a mauler in the run game. He is coming off an injury-plagued 2009 season, but has been durable over his career and should be healthy by the time camp opens.

Another interesting Browns-related nugget is that Troy Smith’s agent said on Monday that his client “would crawl from Baltimore right now to be able to play in Cleveland.” The Browns are looking for quarterbacks and Smith was tendered at the low level, which means he could be had for a fifth round pick. But is he a fit for the West Coast offense? It might be worth it for Holmgren to part with a fifth rounder to find out.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Once a limitation, Saints can now count on linebackers

In the weeks leading up to the kickoff the 2008 NFL Season, I’ll take a look at position groups that could potentially lift teams to new heights, or bury them and their postseason hopes. Today I take a look at how the New Orleans Saints can now consider their linebacker corps a strength.

It would be a mistake to say that the New Orleans Saints’ linebacker corps has been a weakness over the past two years. A “limitation” might be a more appropriate description.

The trio of Scott Shanle, Scott Fujita and Mark Simoneau wasn’t the flashiest linebacker corps in the league, but they certainly got the job done in 2006 when the Saints fell one win shy of reaching the Super Bowl. And given his 95 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles from a year ago, Fujita is arguably one of the more underrated outside linebackers in the league.

Still, the Saints have lacked bulk and overall athleticism in their linebacker corps, so this past offseason they parted with a 2008 fourth round pick and a 2009 conditional pick to acquire former Jets’ MLB Jonathan Vilma. They also retained Simoneau to help on special teams and provide depth behind all three linebacker positions.

Although he underwent season-ending surgery on his right knee last year, Vilma was out of place in Eric Mangini’s 3-4 defensive scheme in New York. Vilma will return to a 4-3 front, where he once amassed 173 total tackles and a sack as the Jets’ middle linebacker in 2005. If he stays healthy, Vilma might turn out to be the best bargain of the 2008 offseason.

Fujita and Shanle will likely be the opening day starters at outside linebacker and with the addition of Vilma, they now have a strong, experienced and athletic trio in the middle of their defense. If first round pick Sedrick Ellis and veteran Brian Young can keep defenders off Vilma, he’ll be a force against the run and the Saints will have one of the better front sevens in the NFC. Not too mention Fujita, Ellis, Will Smith and Charles Grant (assuming the league doesn’t suspend him for legal issues) can all provide a heavy pass rush.

Questions will remain about Vilma’s health until he proves otherwise and the secondary will need Randall Gay (free agent/Patriots) to step up to complement Mike McKenzie in coverage, but there’s no doubt the Saints’ defense has been vastly upgraded. And that’s a scary thought for the NFC considering the real strength for New Orleans is its dangerous offense.

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