Agent questions NFL's evidence
The agent for Green Bay Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove issued an extensive statement Sunday questioning the NFL's investigation into allegations of Hargrove's role in the New Orleans Saints' bounty program.
Referring to it as "Semantics-Gate," agent Phil Williams questioned the 200 pages of evidence league officials provided the NFL Players Association on Friday, three days before commissioner Roger Goodell is to hear the appeal of all four current and former Saints players who were disciplined.
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Addressing league officials in a list of questions more than 1,000 words long, Williams wrote:
"(D)id you sincerely consider what you gave the NFLPA sufficient enough to tarnish men's careers and reputations? If you believe the 'evidence' to be so substantial that you would espouse the 50,000-plus page file, why would most of those pages have zero to do with 'bounties' or even 'pay-for-performance?'
"Do you actually have any concrete evidence that any player from another team was injured as a result of a 'bounty' and that a player from the Saints was therefore paid accordingly? Can you honestly say that the Saints employed a 3-year 'bounty program' if no one was ever paid for a 'bounty?' Would that not constitute one of the worst followed programs ever witnessed?"
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello declined to comment.
Hargrove was one of four players suspended as a result of the league's investigation. Current Saints players Jonathan Vilma was suspended for the 2012 season, while defensive end Will Smith got four games. Hargrove was suspended for eight games and linebacker Scott Fujita (now with Cleveland) for three.
Williams' questions reflected what the Vilma's attorney said Friday about the evidence the league provided.
"The league provided no evidence to us in a timely manner," said Ginsberg, who also is representing Vilma in a defamation lawsuit against Goodell. "It has provided no evidence to corroborate the accusations, and yet the NFL furthermore has told us it doesn't plan to present any witness at the hearing."
Ginsberg said requests by the players' union to have suspended Saints coach Sean Payton, former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who is suspended indefinitely, and Saints linebackers coach Joe Vitt, who is the Saints' interim head coach during Payton's season-long suspension, at Monday's hearing were ignored by the league.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello has said the league is "not commenting on the details or potential details of Monday's proceeding."
The players already have lost two grievances filed with arbitrators that challenged Goodell's authority to impose punishments in the bounty cases.
The NFL's investigation of the Saints found Williams ran a system for three years in which bounties were set on targeted opponents, including quarterbacks Brett Favre and Kurt Warner. The program was in effect from 2009, when New Orleans won the Super Bowl, until last season.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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