An appeals panel has overturned the three-game suspension of Cleveland outside linebacker Scott Fujita as well as the suspensions of New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma, defensive end Will Smith and former New Orleans defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove. There could be more legal wrangling, but the NFL has said that, as of now, all the players are eligible to play immediately.
That’s a huge boost for the Browns. When it looked like Fujita wasn’t going to be able to play, their linebacker corps was in disarray, aside from D'Qwell Jackson. Rookie James-Michael Johnson has an oblique injury that could force him to miss several games. It appeared as if the Browns would have to use inexperienced linebackers Kaluka Maiava, L.J. Fort and Craig Robertson against the Eagles. Some or all of those guys still could play, but Fujita suddenly has brought some stability back to the linebacker situation.
Fujita never has been the world’s most gifted linebacker. He gets by on intellect and effort. Now that he’s 33, Fujita’s not a real threat to run Vick down. But you can count on him to do the things he’s supposed to do and not make huge mistakes.
You also can count on him to help make sure the younger linebackers are lined up correctly and know what they’re doing.
With Fujita back in the mix, Cleveland’s defense suddenly looks a lot better than it did a few hours ago.