Anthony Hargrove’s signed declaration has been released. The contents of the letter are interesting, to say the least. The Commissioner’s office pegged the declaration as one of its smoking guns in their case against the perpetrators of the Bounty Program. In the statement released by the NFL last week when the suspensions were announced, they stated that Hargrove’s declaration “established not only the existence of the program with the Saints, but also that he knew about and participated in it”. However, a quick review the documents obtained makes no assertion whatsoever that Hargrove knowingly and willingly participated in the scheme. It may seem like an argument over semantics, but this could prove to be a crucial sticking point in Hargrove’s appeal. ProFootBallTalk has the highlights:
- Hargrove contends that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt both told Hargrove to “just play dumb” about the existence of a bounty program when questioned by NFL Security in 2010, when the league initially investigated the situation.
- Hargrove contends that Williams first raised the situation in a one-on-one meeting. Williams first told Hargrove that he would be “plugged in at left end” for 2010, Hargrove’s preferred position. Hargrove claims that he later realized Williams’ suggestion “might have had something to do” with Williams’ subsequent instructions regarding the bounty investigation, and that Hargrove eventually was “never given the opportunity to compete for the starting left defensive end job.”
- Williams then told Hargrove that the NFL was coming to investigate a complaint that the Saints had placed a “bounty” on Vikings quarterback Brett Favre prior to the 2009 NFC title game. Williams explained that some people believed Hargrove had told Vikings defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy about the existence of the bounty, given that they previously played together with the Rams.
- Williams said he was going to deny the existence of a bounty, and that Hargrove should deny it, too. Per Hargrove, Williams said, “Those motherf-ckers [the NFL] have been trying to get me for years,” and that, if they “stay on the same page, this will blow over.”
- Vitt, per Hargrove, also said to deny the existence of the bounty program, and to remember that Vitt “brought [Hargrove] into the League and brought [Hargrove] to the Saints.”
- Hargrove says that, when meeting with NFL Security he “denied all knowledge of a bounty or bounty program.” Roughly a week later, Williams asked Hargrove if he stuck to the story. Hargrove said he responded in the way Williams and Vitt had instructed — Hargrove denied any knowledge of a bounty program.
- Now for what Hargrove’s declaration doesn’t say. At no point in the declaration does Hargrove admit to any knowledge of the existence of a bounty program. Indeed, at no point does Hargrove claim that he was told to say anything different from what he would have otherwise said, without coaching. In other words, Hargrove never says he was told to lie. Instead, he says he was told what to say, without commenting on whether he believed what he was told to say to be the truth.
The fact that Hargrove makes no confession regarding knowledge of the Bounty Program could very well harm the League’s case. It was very dishonest and irresponsible of them to release a statement saying Hargrove made confessions when those confessions do not exist within the document Hargrove signed. You can view the document in its entirety below and come to your own conclusions. It seems like the fight over this scandal has only just begun.