Hargrove penalty: NFL now discredits video

July, 6, 2012
7/06/12
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Green Bay Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove has insisted on multiple occasions that a key piece of evidence against him in the New Orleans Saints bounty issue is a case of mistaken identity. Voice recognition analysis confirmed that Hargrove was not the person who said "Bobby, give me my money," a quote captured on an NFL Films video of the 2009 NFC Championship Game. Amazingly, it now appears the league has agreed.

As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk points out, commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a letter to Hargrove and three other suspended players that he is "prepared to assume" Hargrove was not the one speaking. But Goodell went on to claim that the video, which the league introduced during the appeal hearing and in a meeting with reporters, was not a factor in Hargrove's eight-game suspension.

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Tom Hauck/Getty ImagesCommissioner Roger Goodell says a quote captured on an NFL Films video of the 2009 NFC Championship Game had no bearing on Anthony Hargrove's eight-game suspension.
"The identity of the player who made the statement was immaterial to my decision on your appeals and did not affect the level of discipline imposed on Mr. Hargrove," Goodell wrote in a letter that was attached to legal filings submitted Tuesday. The commissioner said the video nevertheless provides ample evidence of a bounty program, no matter who said the words, and that "members of the Saints defense, including Mr. Hargrove, were well aware" of it.

Wow. The league was wrong, but the inaccuracy doesn't matter? That's convenient.

So once again, we're back to a question we've asked several times: What evidence does the NFL have to justify Hargrove's eight-game suspension? Was Hargrove "very well aware" of a bounty program because he was in a sideline huddle when one player said "give me my money" to another? That's a bit of a leap.

Let's go back to the original accusation the NFL publicized against Hargrove in March. As you might recall, here is what the league wrote:
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."

Now let's go through those sentences one-by-one:

  • "Hargrove actively participated in the program while a member of the Saints." If the NFL has evidence of this, it remains private.
  • "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." As we discussed in the spring, this sentence is at best a mischaracterization. In the declaration, Hargrove said only that "I denied all knowledge of a bounty or bounty program." To me, there is a big leap between establishing the existence of and participation in a program when all that happened was a denial of knowledge.
  • "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." In the declaration, Hargrove said former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams told him that "some people" thought he had told Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Jimmy Kennedy about the bounty. Both Hargrove and Kennedy have denied that conversation took place.
  • "Hargrove also actively obstructed the league’s 2010 investigation into the program by being untruthful to investigators." That goes back to Hargrove originally denying all knowledge of any program, something he said Williams and fellow Saints assistant Joe Vitt asked him to do. It requires an assumption that Hargrove knew all of the details of any program that might have existed in order for a denial to be interpreted as "untruthful."

The video evidence was introduced later in the process, but now that the NFL has disregarded it, we're back to the original accusations. So essentially, again, we're left to assume that Hargrove was suspended eight games because he denied existence of a bounty program in 2010 -- even if there is no evidence that he participated in it or was aware of it. Yikes.

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