The NFLPA continues to believe that the supposed smoking gun in the bounty case is neither smoking nor a gun.
The league insists that the notorious sideline video from the 2009 NFC title game proves that former Saints defensive end Anthony Hargrove said, “Bobby, give me my money” after learning that Vikings quarterback Brett Favre may have suffered a broken leg.
NFLPA outside counsel Richard Smith tells Tim Rohan of the New York Times that a voice recognition expert has concluded Hargrove’s voice doesn’t match the voice on the tape. The expert also said that Hargrove’s lips aren’t visible when the key phrase is uttered (it didn’t take an expert for that), and that the first word uttered wasn’t “Bobby” but the product of a player and a coach speaking at the same time.
That last point seems like a stretch. And it’s also irrelevant. It doesn’t matter whether Hargrove says “Bobby”; it matters whether he said “give me my money.” Trying too hard to prove that he didn’t say “Bobby” invites the same kind of scrutiny the league has encountered by trying too hard to prove that Hargrove said “give me my money.”
And the league continues to try too hard to prove that Hargrove said “give me my money.”
The NFL’s stubbornness serves only to fuel the NFLPA’s belief that the investigation has failed to get to the truth. Smith calls the interpretation of the Hargrove video “my best piece of evidence because it calls into question the thoroughness, the accuracy and veracity of the NFL’s investigation and their statements.”
The league nevertheless continues to insist that Hargrove is the person who said “give me my money,” with no apparent effort to have an expert analyze the voices captured by the NFL Films microphones.
“It’s just unfathomable to me that the NFL would simply rely on their naked eye and their ears to determine if a player has said something,” Smith said.
And so, while there seems to be evidence of a pay-for-performance program that rewarded players for applying clean, legal hits that forced opponents to leave a given game temporarily or otherwise, the pieces of proof that have become public have permitted the NFLPA to pounce on actual or perceived defects.
“Anything that we have tested, been able to test, like the videotape, is crumbling,” Smith said.
It’s hard to know whether the entire case would crumble under scrutiny, because the league has refused to give Smith access to coach Sean Payton, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, all of the documents generated by the investigation, and the statements of everyone interviewed by the league.
And that’s unfortunate. The league is convinced the Saints used a bounty program. Every piece of evidence that the league either has leaked or released exhibits very real flaws. By not allowing the NFLPA to see the rest of the evidence, it’s impossible to know whether it’s flawed, too.