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Hargrove trying to move forward

IRVING, Texas -- In the corner of the locker room, Anthony Hargrove put on a T-shirt and tried to mind his own business.

The first day of the organized team activities had ended, and the newly signed Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman was just trying to be one of the guys.

Hargrove isn't just one of the guys. His résumé is littered with suspensions surrounding solid play. He has nearly as many games missed due to suspensions (22) as he has NFL starts (25). The latest suspension was for his role in Bountygate, for which he still preaches his innocence.

"You've seen my life," Hargrove said. "There's no such thing as hopelessness. Hopefully what's happening with me now is testimony to anybody that feels that way. Hopefully they understand (what's) been taken away because there is no hopelessness. If you want something bad enough, you've just got to persevere and fight for it. And in the end, it usually works out for you."

He was supposed to miss eight games last season, though the suspension was later reduced to two. But after the testimonies, an exchange of words with an ex-teammate, Remi Ayodele, and a pending lawsuit, he was cut by the Green Bay Packers without playing a game.

The Cowboys decided to work him out and were impressed. Hargrove is a powerful lineman who can play both defensive end and tackle in a 4-3 scheme. This is a man with 102 NFL games on his body that yearns for more.

The Cowboys want pass-rushers with power and speed along the defensive line, and Hargrove fits.

Hargrove plans to blend in with a force on the field. He doesn't want any fuss away from it. He doesn't want to be a distraction.

Yet, if Hargrove makes the roster, the "Bountygate" questions will linger, especially when the Cowboys visit New Orleans on Nov. 10. It's with the Saints that Hargrove found trouble for his alleged involvement in a bounty program led by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell didn't believe Hargrove's story that he had nothing to do with it. Audio exists of a player on the sidelines of the 2009 NFC Championship Game saying he wants his money for knocking Brett Favre out of the game.

"If he (Goodell) would have just looked at the tape, it spoke for itself," Hargrove said. "It was hard enough as it is. The way it all came out and happened, it was hard. I wish people would have treated it differently."

The voice on the tape was alleged to be Hargrove. Was it Ayodele? Who knows?

Ayodele accused Hargrove of being the voice.

"The way last year unfolded, nothing was surprising from anyone, responses from anything," Hargrove said. "I'm putting it behind me. I'm trying to move forward and that's all I can do at the end of the day."

During his time away, Hargrove volunteered at Acclaim Care, a Richmond, Va., facility for mentally challenged adults. He learned how to cook and discovered a calmness while working with the people in Richmond. Hargrove said when his career officially ends, he plans to run a food truck cooking his specialty: fish tacos.

"I had to get out of myself," he said. "I had to get away from football."

In a conversation with reporters last week, Hargrove sounded bitter, but relaxed and ready to move on with his life.

"If you lost a year of a paycheck, how would you feel?" said Hargrove, who signed a one-year contract with the Cowboys. "I play football and I'm not worried about the physical stuff. Playing football, that's what I do for a living and (the suspension) took my earning power away, so that's the main thing."

It's what happens after your career has been halted twice for substance abuse -- four games in 2007 and 16 more in 2008. He's trying to move forward and hope everyone will eventually forget "Bountygate."

Coach Jason Garrett said the team had no issues in signing Hargrove. The Cowboys have signed players with troubled backgrounds before, so it's not a big deal.

Hargrove said he's thankful.

If he makes the 53-man roster in September, he'll be ready.

"No chip, man. No chip at all," he said. "I just play fast and I play hard. I don't worry about what the league has done. I just play ball."