When the league held the appeal hearings for the players suspended for alleged roles in the bounty scheme, one of the primary pieces of evidence on exhibit was a video league investigators claimed showed Anthony Hargrove making a potentially damning statement.
… one of the pieces of evidence presented by the NFL on Monday was a video that was taken on the Saints’ sideline during the 2009 NFC Title Game (which can be viewed here – fast forward to the 4:20 mark). The NFL claims that after hearing Brett Favre may have suffered a broken leg, a player identified as Hargrove can be heard saying, “Bobby [McCray]! PAY ME MY MONEY!”
This is a vital piece of evidence for the NFL’s case and it is open for scrutiny due to the fact that right after the player identified as Hargrove says “Bobby!”, the camera is obscured by another Saints player who steps in the viewer’s line of sight just as the phrase “PAY ME MY MONEY!” is being yelled.
Hargrove would go on to make very public denials that it was his voice heard on the tape.
In his formal response to one of the lawsuits filed by suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Commissioner Roger Goodell seems to be willing to contend that it may not have been Hargrove making the “PAY ME MY MONEY!” statement, but in the grand scheme of things, that may not matter. From ProFootballTalk.com:
“For purposes of addressing Mr. Hargrove’s appeal,” Goodell writes, “I need not resolve the issue of who made the statement. Instead, I am prepared to assume — as he apparently stated publicly — that he did not make it. But that statement is relevant because, regardless of which player said it, it corroborates other evidence that there was an incentive in place for knocking Mr. Favre out of the game and that the members of the Saints defense, including Mr. Hargrove, were well aware of that fact. The identity of the player who made the statement was immaterial to my decision on your appears and did not affect the level of discipline imposed on Mr. Hargrove.”
It’s a well-crafted paragraph, which explains in logical, commonsensical fashion the potential import of the words plainly audible on the video on question. Unless someone off camera was demanding change from a hot-dog vendor adept at sleight of hand, the comments suggest the existence of a bounty on Brett Favre.
Retracting the assertion that Hargrove was the one heard in the video making the payment demand opens up the league for criticism on the evidence they claim to hold against the accused players. While the statement being made does lend credence to the idea that a bounty system was in place, retracting this charge against Hargrove makes it seem as if he was suspended for 8 games for something he may not have done.