Anthony Hargrove, one of four NFL players to have his suspension temporarily lifted last week despite being part of what the league says was a bounty program conducted by members of the New Orleans Saints, continued to proclaim his innocence and said that the evidence against him "isn't very strong at all."
"I don't think any of the evidence they have against myself or any other players is strong," he said in an interview with ESPN's "Outside The Lines" on Friday. "And so I've taken a stand in the beginning and I continue to have the same stand, as innocent."
Clarification. Truth. I want to know why I'm being suspended. I would like to know the reasons for what they said and why they said it, and hopefully they'll overturn this thing.” -- Anthony Hargrove, on what he wants to come from his meeting next week with the NFL
Hargrove, along with Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith and Scott Fujita, had their suspensions overturned last Friday by a federal court appeals panel, which ruled that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell must clarify his May 2 decision to suspend and fine the players to ensure no part of his decisions was based on salary-cap violations. That allowed the four players to play immediately. Hargrove is the only one of the four without a team, having been released by the Green Bay Packers during the preseason.
Players and coaches implicated in the bounty pool have testified under oath in a related federal court case that they never intended to injure opposing players. The players are scheduled to meet with the NFL and their representatives next week.
Hargrove said he didn't think the NFL's process, which saw him suspended for eight games in May, was fair.
"But I've just got to go by what the NFL does, and hopefully the truth will come, will come to the surface, and I'll be back to playing football," he said.
In a statement after the interview, the NFL said: "The process for player discipline is negotiated with the NFL Players Association and has been part of the NFL's success in protecting the integrity of the game and player safety for many decades. It is a system that the players have approved on multiple occasions, including again in 2011. Our investigation was detailed and the players were offered numerous opportunities to provide information. We are pleased that Mr. Hargrove has finally decided to meet with us and look forward to hearing directly from him and other players next week."
In its May ruling, the NFL said Hargrove was suspended because he "actively obstructed the league's 2010 investigation into the program by being untruthful to investigators." Hargrove continued to deny that allegation in the interview with "Outside The Lines."
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 »
"I told the truth," he said. "I said the same thing then that I'm saying now, and that some players have said under oath."
Friday, he told "Outside the Lines" that no money exchanged hands as part of any bounty program.
"No, not me, not my teammates, no one," he said. "That's not the way the game is played. You can't play the game like that."
Hargrove said it was not his voice on a videotape the NFL used as part of its case against him. In the videotape, from a 2010 playoff game against New Orleans, Hargrove is accused of saying "Hey Bobby, give me the money" to teammate Bobby McCray after a hit on then-Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre.
Asked whose voice it was, Hargrove said: "I can't comment on that right now. But I think the person whose voice it was knows who it was."
Hargrove said that media coverage should have been more diligent.
Asked what he wants out of his meeting next week with the NFL, he said: "Clarification. Truth. I want to know why I'm being suspended. I would like to know the reasons for what they said and why they said it, and hopefully they'll overturn this thing."
He also said he hoped Goodell would be involved in the entire meeting.
"I have been told he may poke his head in," Hargrove said of Goodell.
A league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that Goodell will be an active and engaged participant in the Monday meeting with Vilma and the Tuesday meeting with the other three suspended players.
Hargrove said he thinks the chance of the suspension being reinstated is slim.
Asked if he'd accept a reduced punishment, Hargrove said: "If I was guilty of a crime, which I'm not, then I would be open to it. But the fact that I'm not guilty, I don't want it reduced. I'd like my suspension taken away completely."
Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter was used in this report.
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