With Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and Saints defensive end Will Smith claiming that they had no involvement in any type of bounty program, former Saints defensive end Anthony Hargrove becomes a key figure in the looming appeal process.
Originally interviewed by NFL Security when the league first investigated the claims of a bounty against Brett Favre in 2010, Hargrove denied the allegations. In early March, Hargrove reiterated, in somewhat vague terms, his position that he had no involvement in a bounty system.
“I have made many mistakes in my life and have paid dearly for some of them, and the late hit and the comments were both mistakes, in my opinion,” Hargrove said, in reference to hitting Favre low and exclaiming “Favre is out of the game! Favre is done! Favre is done!” thereafter. “But players all over the league do the same thing every Sunday, make late hits and say stupid things. But I can say with absolute certainty that neither the late hit nor the comment have anything whatsoever to do with the issue being so hotly discussed in the media.”
On Wednesday, the NFL’s announcement of the various player suspensions mentioned that Hargrove has signed a “declaration” (it’s like an affidavit, but it’s not signed in the presence of a notary) in which he “established not only the existence of the program with the Saints, but also that he knew about and participated in it,” and that he “told at least one player on another team that Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was a target of a large bounty.”
On Thursday, lawyer Mary Jo White described generally the contents of Hargrove’s declaration. “In it, he acknowledges the nature of the program and his participation in it,” White said. “And, which was 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.”
White said Hargrove identified the person who told him to lie, but White declined to reveal the information.
And that highlights the primary disconnect with this process. The NFL wants the media and, in turn, the public to have confidence in the investigation, but the NFL wants the media and, in turn, the public to simply take the NFL at its word. At some point, there must be full disclosure of all relevant facts, if the NFL wants the media and, in turn, the public to approve the process.
This includes disclosing the full Hargrove declaration, along with all other evidence that proves the players who have been suspended did what they are accused of doing. Given that the players who have been suspended are challenging their punishments and, at least as to Vilma and Smith, professing their innocence, far more is needed than mere summaries or conclusions.