The Super Bowl-winning linebacker later enmeshed in the Saints bounty scandal signed a one-day contract with New Orleans and retired Monday. The Saints provided the document and Fujita signed it while on a trip with former teammate Scott Gleason, who is battling ALS.
“What better place to reach the end of the road than here at 10,000 feet above sea level, in the Peruvian Andes overlooking Machu Picchu with my dear friend Steve Gleason?” Fujita said.
The 33-year-old Fujita finished his career with the Cleveland Browns but was implicated and even suspended for one game by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for his role in what the league called a performance pool designed to knock targeted opponents out of games from 2009 to 2011. Fujita later was essentially absolved of blame by former commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
He spent three seasons with Kansas City, one in Dallas, then four seasons with the Saints, winning the 2009 NFL championship. Fujita was the first player signed by New Orleans when Sean Payton became coach in 2006.
“He was a cornerstone of the foundation that we’ve built, and we won a world championship together,” Payton said. “It’s been said that when you win a championship together, you walk together for the rest of your lives, and that’s certainly appropriate to celebrate on a day like today.”
Fujita left for Cleveland as a free agent in 2010 and spent the last three seasons with the Browns.
“I’ve been fortunate to play in this league for a long time and for some great organizations, but there is no doubt that my times spent in New Orleans were some of the best years of my life,” Fujita said in explaining why he retired as a Saint. “The way the team and the community embraced us when we first arrived, and the way they continue to do so, even today, shows how deep this connection is.”
Fujita played in 143 regular-season games, making 917 tackles (617 solo) along with 23 1-2 sacks. He had 11 forced fumbles, seven interception returns for 65 yards, and three fumble recoveries. Fujita played in six postseason games, getting 36 tackles (26 solo) and one fumble recovery.
A member of the NFL Players Association’s executive committee, he was a leader for the players during the 2011 lockout.