The guy who allegedly said “Bobby, give me my money” may not be getting any NFL money for a long time.
Apart from the failure of the internal appeals panel and/or Judge Helen G. Berrigan to lift the bounty suspensions early enough to give the players a meaningful chance to practice and prepare for Week One, the delays by both tribunals have made it impossible defensive end Anthony Hargrove to even have a job.
Cut by the Packers in August, Hargrove remains a man without a team. And now that the suspensions have been vacated, with the process sent back to square one before Commissioner Roger Goodell, Hargrove likely will remain radioactive until the situation is resolved.
The problem for Hargrove is that, if the suspensions were still in place, he would get credit this week for the first of his eight-game ban — even though he has no team. Then, after Week Eight, he’d be free and clear and able to return.
There have been no indications that the NFL will give him credit for time served, or any similar concession. From the league’s perspective, he’s free to sign with any team at any time. But the practical outcome for Hargrove likely will be that no one signs him until it’s known whether he’ll be suspended.
If, for example, it takes four weeks to fully resolve the situation, with Goodell issuing a decision and then presiding over the appeal process, a renewed eight-game suspension of Hargrove will mean that he misses 12 games.
It could end up being even more than that, if Judge Berrigan blocks the suspensions pending her final decision regarding whether the suspensions, as re-issued, should be overturned. Unlike the other players, Hargrove likely will remain jobless until the situation is fully resolved and his suspension is served.
As a matter of basic fairness, the internal appeals board that vacated the suspensions should have moved much more quickly. Arbitrator Stephen Burbank reached his initial decision on June 4. It never should have taken three months and three days for the appeal to be resolved.
If the process had moved more quickly, the suspensions could have been re-issued and the appeals could have been resolved and if the suspensions ultimately were upheld the suspensions could have been served as of Week One.
So while Saints fans will celebrate the availability of defensive end Will Smith and the presence of linebacker Jonathan Vilma today, Hargrove has good reason to feel dejected. And the smartest move he could make at this point would be to accept the eight-game suspension, which could be his quickest path back to the field.