At any moment, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's ruling on the appeal of Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove and three other players in the New Orleans Saints bounty investigation. While we wait, I wanted to bring to your attention an important revelation that further calls into question what the NFL has claimed as evidence against Hargrove, thus meriting an eight-game suspension.
Last week, NFLPA outside counsel Richard Smith revealed to the New York Times that a voice recognition analyst concluded that Hargrove's voice was not the one recorded saying "Bobby, give me my money" in an NFL Films video used as evidence that Hargrove knew about and participated in the bounty program.
Here's the relevant portion of the Times article:
"Smith hired a voice recognition expert to review and analyze the sentence. Smith said the expert had concluded that the harmonics of Hargrove’s voice did not match the voice on the tape, that Hargrove’s lips had not been visible and that the first word was not "Bobby" but instead the result of a player and coach talking at once.
"No one can say beyond doubt that it’s Anthony Hargrove speaking," Smith said.
As we've discussed, there would be no credible reason for Hargrove to ask Saints defensive end Bobby McCray to pay him money for a hit he was not involved in. When you watch the video -- link here with an arrow added for emphasis -- Hargrove's lips are obscured and can't be seen when the words are audible. At the same time, you see defensive tackle Remi Ayodele -- who was involved in the hit against Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre -- turning to teammate Will Smith. (Ayodele's agent told NFL.com that he "doesn't recall hearing that statement.")
We've acknowledged that the NFL mischaracterized Hargrove's official declaration, suggesting he confirmed his knowledge and participation when in fact he acknowledged only that Saints coaches requested he "play dumb" when asked about the bounty by NFL investigators.
Meanwhile, a former Saints practice squad player, who was standing near Hargrove at that moment on the sideline, told CBSSports.com that Hargrove wasn't the one speaking in the video.
I realize the NFL's discipline program does not require the same standards for evidence as a court of law might. But again, it's worth asking whether anything the NFL has cited against Hargrove has credible merit.
We'll keep you posted.