I've covered players represented by agent Phil Williams for more than a decade, and I can count on one hand the times he has spoken publicly, much less issued the kind of statement he provided Sunday afternoon. But Anthony Hargrove's implication in the New Orleans Saints bounty case, and the eight-game suspension he faces as a result, conjured a passionate and deeply personal response, as you read in the preceding post.
The big issue for Williams and others is the continued disconnect between the accusations, discipline and the evidence provided by the NFL.
In questioning whether the league can back up its claims, Williams suggested it already has misrepresented three sets of facts related to Hargrove. Williams wondered if "honesty is truly paramount" to league officials and asked whether they will admit to "lying" about their portrayal of the evidence.
Hargrove is scheduled to have his appeal heard Monday by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. It's difficult, but not impossible, to imagine Goodell reducing the suspension given the intense scrutiny of this case. But the Green Bay Packers are certainly hoping that will happen, and we of course will keep you updated during the week.
For now, I'll leave you with some thoughts that can help you wade through the statement if you're invested at that level. To me, it's a career-altering situation, which makes this as serious as it gets.
As we've discussed before, the NFL's portrayal of Hargrove's admissions don't match up with the original declaration he provided the NFL. He admitted to being told to "play dumb" about the existence of a program, but that's not the same thing as establishing the existence of the program and participating in it, as the league has claimed. Williams: "Is honesty truly paramount to you? If so, why did you take Anthony Hargrove's declaration and state that it said things that it did not say? Is that honest? Why did you state that Anthony 'admitted to lying' when he has done no such thing? Do you hold yourself to the same standard as you hold others? Have you 'admitted to lying'? To clarify, would you consider it lying to say someone 'admitted to lying' when they did not do so?"
Williams also said that Hargrove agreed to be interviewed on April 3 by the NFL, contrary to the league's claims that he declined. Williams: "If this is true, which it is, is it fair to state as fact that he simply declined….?"
A third set of facts Williams questioned: The league's assertion that Hargrove told at least one player on another team that former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was the target of a bounty in the 2009 NFC Championship Game. Williams: "And why do you say that he spoke to someone on another team about an alleged 'bounty' program back during the time in question, when in fact he did not?"
"Honesty" is a big theme of the statement because the league has said Hargrove's punishment is based in part on his initial denials when interviewed by the league in February 2010.
A portion of the statement refers to "phrases that have different meanings depending on their context." Williams is referring to reports that Hargrove was celebrating on the sideline during the 2009 NFC Championship Game when Favre injured his ankle.
OK, I've taken up enough of your Sunday. If nothing else, this statement gives you some understanding of how deeply this bounty case has penetrated the NFL core and how much of a disconnect there is between the accusations and the evidence provided. As we've discussed before, Hargrove turned around his life after substance abuse left him with a year-long NFL suspension 2008. He worked hard to extend his career, with Williams among those guiding the way, and from the outside you could look at the evidence provided and wonder what exactly he has been punished for this time. Perhaps this statement will shake loose some answers.