Ex-Saint Hargrove denies it was his voice on tape
GalleriesNFL Draft 2012 Hits & misses: 59 years of No. 1 NFL draft picks NFL draft: How these 39 QBs have done
Web linksBlog: Bob Glauber's NFL Hot Reads
Former Saints defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove Tuesday denied it was his voice on a videotaped clip that was used as evidence during the NFL's investigation into the Saints' alleged bounty scheme.
"It wasn't me," Hargrove said while reading a statement outside the NFL's Park Avenue headquarters. "That's right. The NFL got their evidence all wrong."
During a media briefing after the NFL's Monday appeal for four players suspended in connection with the bounty program, the league made a sweeping presentation of evidence it had compiled.
A clip of a sideline conversation among Saints defensive players during the 2009 NFC Championship Game at the Superdome was shown. During the conversation, investigators said Monday, Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt told the players that he thought Vikings quarterback Brett Favre would miss the rest of the game with a broken leg.
According to investigators, Hargrove then said to teammate Bobby McCray, "Bobby, give me the money." Hargrove was seen in the video saying, "Bobby," but his face was obscured by an unidentified player when the words "give me the money" were heard.
The NFL alleged a $35,000 bounty had been placed on Favre -- $10,000 from linebacker Jonathan Vilma, $10,000 from former Saints defensive lineman Charles Grant, $10,000 from Michael Ornstein, a close friend of suspended Saints coach Sean Payton's, and Vitt.
"The NFL got their evidence all wrong," Hargrove said. "In their rush to convict me, they made a very serious error. Is it intentional? I don't know. But one thing I do know with absolute certainty . . . it . . . was . . . not . . . me! . . . Anyone who knows me well knows that it is not me. But the NFL does not know me well. They simply make assumptions. With . . . my . . . life."
Asked about Hargrove's contention, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said, "We stand by the findings of our investigation."
In a sworn statement, Hargrove acknowledges he acted on defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' and Vitt's instructions to "play dumb'' if asked whether he was aware of bounties being placed on Favre or any other player.
Hargrove, now a member of the Packers, has been suspended eight games. Vilma, who left Monday's appeal hearing before the NFL presented its evidence to the players, has been suspended for the 2012 season. Saints defensive lineman Will Smith was suspended for four games, and former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita, now a Brown, drew a three-game suspension.
"I have sat back over the past few months,'' Hargrove said, "and watched as the NFL has spent countless hours painting a picture that has left a lot of people convinced that myself and three other players deserve to be punished, not to mention the coaching staff and Loomis.
"I have asked myself a million times: Why? Why on earth are they trying to make a mountain out of a molehill? I do not have an absolute answer, but I'm guessing it has something to do with image, power and money. The words they have used to capture your hearts and minds have been many, practiced, and calculated. But that does not make them true. It just makes them good at what they do. They are, in my opinion, master politicians.''
Hargrove again complained that the NFL exaggerated the contents of a statement he made corroborating the existence of a bounty program.
"I watched in shock as they took my declaration a couple of months ago and made it into something it was not," he said. "It left from me as a private explanation of certain specific events and, voilà, came out as a confession of crimes . . . They publicly said that I said things that I did not say. Is that not lying? Isn't it?"
Hargrove, who did not take questions, said he "felt like the target of a sophisticated mugging, watching as many have walked by and minded their own business as if the muggers deserved their prize."