Last week’s ruling from Stephen Burbank in Bounty Grievance No. 2 gave Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove a glimmer of hope. On Monday, Burbank snuffed it out completely.
Burbank has ruled, a week after retaining jurisdiction over Hargrove’s grievance, that the attempt to shift the case away from Commissioner Roger Goodell should be rejected because Hargrove’s eight-game suspension arose in no way from potential salary-cap violations.
The outcome should come as no surprise, given that Burbank’s initial decision supplied the league office with a road map for slamming the door on the argument that Goodell lacks jurisdiction to impose penalties for cap violations against Hargrove. The league needed only to specify that Hargrove wasn’t being punished for receiving extra money for inflicting injury, and the league accomplished that fairly easy feat via a letter sent to Hargrove on June 8.
“This letter attributes the ‘vast majority of [Mr. Hargrove’s] eight-game suspension to [his] lying . . . and obstruction’ and the ‘balance . . . to [his] active participation in the program by pledging and contributing money to the pool,” Burbank writes. “The June 8 letter goes on to state that Mr. Hargrove’s ‘suspension was not attributable to any agreement on your part to accept payments from the pool or to any moneys that you may have received from the pool.’”
Of course, there’s a chance that the discipline was at least in part based on Hargrove receiving money for inflicting injury, especially since Hargrove was believed to be one of the players who was in line to get paid for banging the bejeepers out of Brett Favre in the 2009 NFC title game. Indeed, the original letter sent to Hargrove said nothing about the player being disciplined for pledging or contributing money to the bounty program, even though the substantially similar letters sent to the other three players use such language.
But with Burbank’s initial ruling making it clear that all the NFL needed to do was clearly state that Hargrove wasn’t being suspended for getting paid to injure Favre or anyone else, it was a quick and easy fix for the league office, which allowed Burbank to in turn make quick and easy work of Hargrove’s grievance.
The NFLPA previously has said that an appeal will be filed on behalf of Hargrove and the three other players whose grievances were dismissed by Burbank: Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Saints defensive end Will Smith, and Browns linebacker Scott Fujita. That appeal most likely will not delay the appeal hearing on the bounty suspensions, which will be conducted by Goodell on Monday, June 18.