Ex-Saint 'disappointed' by leak
In a document obtained Monday by The Associated Press, Hargrove, now a member of the Green Bay Packers, said he was told by former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and current New Orleans assistant head coach Joe Vitt to deny the existence of a bounty program to NFL investigators.
Call me naive, but I did not expect them to publicize the fact that I had sent them 'the Declaration.' But since they did, and because they grossly mischaracterized my words, it obviously became a hot item and subsequently was leaked by someone.” -- Former Saints DE Anthony Hargrove
Hargrove acknowledged in the document that he acted on Williams' and Vitt's instructions to "play dumb" if asked whether he was aware of bounties being placed on former Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre or any other player.
Hargrove said Wednesday in a statement to ESPN's Kevin Negandhi that he believed his statement would remain confidential. Hargrove said he only issued the sworn statement to assist the league in its investigation.
"I'm disappointed that 'the Declaration' was leaked," Hargrove said Wednesday of the document first published Monday by Yahoo! Sports. "The intent of 'the Declaration' was to let the NFL know exactly what happened in March of 2010. Call me naive, but I did not expect them to publicize the fact that I had sent them 'the Declaration.' But since they did, and because they grossly mischaracterized my words, it obviously became a hot item and subsequently was leaked by someone.
"I do not know who leaked it, but I would have preferred for it to remain private between the NFL and me."
Vitt strongly denied the claim Monday, saying he never told Hargrove to lie or adhere to any kind of code of silence about New Orleans' bounty system. "At no time did I ever tell Anthony Hargrove to lie or deny the existence (of the alleged bounty program)," Vitt told the New Orleans Times Picayune. "He can say whatever he wants to say. It just didn't happen."
According to the paper, Vitt insisted that Saints players never intended to hurt opponents, and he reiterated his recent comments that the words he used in his motivational speeches to fire up his players were the wrong ones and needed to be toned down.
Hargrove's declaration does not go into specifics, however, about just what Hargrove knew or did not know about the bounty program in New Orleans, and for that reason it has become a point of contention between the NFL and the NFL Players Association.
From the union's perspective, Hargrove's statement does not say that he lied to anyone, nor does it state that he or any other Saints participated in a bounty program that offered cash bonuses for hits that injured targeted opponents.
Saints Bounty Scandal
An NFL investigation found the New Orleans Saints operated a bounty system that rewarded 22 to 27 players for hard hits and for injuring opposing players. Profile »
The NFL, by contrast, has said Hargrove's words acknowledge the existence of a bounty program and show that Hargrove initially lied to NFL investigators about it.
In describing Hargrove's declaration last week, Mary Jo White, a former U.S. attorney hired by the NFL to review its investigation, said the player, "acknowledges the nature of the program and his participation in it, and, which is really the thrust of the declaration, that he was told to lie about it, and he did when he was asked about it in 2010 by the NFL investigators."
Hargrove, now with Green Bay, was one of four players who received suspensions of various lengths in connection with the bounty probe. Hargrove was suspended eight games, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the entire season, Saints defensive end Will Smith for four games and Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita for three games.
All four players are appealing. The NFLPA also has filed grievances with the NFL, arguing that commissioner Roger Goodell lacked the authority to punish players for off-field matters that predated last August's new collective bargaining agreement, and that Goodell should not hear the appeals of the players' suspensions in the bounty matter.
No other players are mentioned in Hargrove's sworn statement, which also does not contain any description of payments being pledged, made, or received.
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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