Wow. We all knew that new Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove was a member of the New Orleans Saints during the time when the NFL says the Saints' well-discussed bounty program was in place. But I'm not sure any of us expected Hargrove to receive the second-harshest penalty among Saints players as a result of the investigation.
But that's the upshot of Hargrove's eight-game suspension, announced Wednesday by the NFL. Only linebacker Jonathan Vilma, whom the NFL says put up a $10,000 bounty on Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre in the 2009 NFC Championship Game, received a longer suspension. Let me pass along two bits of information for you to digest before we start getting into analysis and implications.
First, here is the full NFL statement on Hargrove's role: "Defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove (now with the Green Bay Packers) is suspended without pay for the first eight games of the 2012 regular season. Hargrove actively participated in the program while a member of the Saints. Hargrove submitted a signed declaration to the league that established not only the existence of the program at the Saints, but also that he knew about and participated in it. The evidence showed that Hargrove told at least one player on another team that Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was a target of a large bounty during the NFC Championship Game in January of 2010. Hargrove also actively obstructed the league’s 2010 investigation into the program by being untruthful to investigators."
In March, Hargrove provided us with an extensive statement about his role, or lack thereof, in the bounty program. I've posted it verbatim below. We'll be back in a bit.
ANTHONY HARGROVE STATEMENT FROM MARCH 2012
"First of all, the purpose of this statement is simply to address the comments that have been made about me in the media. I will not address anything to do with anyone else but myself.
"In regards to the hit I made on Brett Favre that has been talked about: it was one of about five times I got to him and the only one that was late. I agree it was a late hit, but in the heat of the moment I was simply trying to make a play. I can assure you that when I got up, I was thinking two things, one, that I cost my team, and two, that I might have just cost myself some money if the NFL fined me.
"To put things in perspective, I received a game ball for my play that day and yet got fined while receiving nothing and expecting to receive nothing for the play some keep referencing. Kudos to Brett, he even asked me if that was all I had! Gotta love him.
"And in regards to my comments that have been talked about where I say that Favre is done, I readily agree that it sounds bad in retrospect. A lot of things look bad when we look back and realize how they sound. Trust me, I've said much, much worse. Heck, I probably say worse every day.
"But did I personally want Favre INJURED? Absolutely and categorically NO! Did I feel like we, the Saints, had a better chance of being in the Super Bowl with Favre on the sideline? Of course. Would the Patriots and their fans have probably been excited to see Eli [Manning] on the bench with his foot up whispering that he was done [in Super Bowl XLVI]? Would players on the sideline have made comments to that effect? Right or wrong, I'm guessing yes.
"Probably every Saints fan, player and coach got an adrenaline rush when thinking Minnesota might be in trouble. I said what many people were probably thinking, though maybe I said it in a way that sounded a bit too excited. Those who know me best know that I lean toward the animated side a bit. Okay, a lot! It's who God made me. I do regret saying it, though.
"I have made many mistakes in my life and have paid dearly for some of them, and the late hit and the comments were both mistakes, in my opinion. But players all over the league do the same thing every Sunday, make late hits and say stupid things. But I can say with absolute certainty that neither the late hit nor the comment have anything whatsoever to do with the issue being so hotly discussed in the media."