NEW YORK – Former New Orleans defensive end Anthony Hargrove says it’s not his voice saying “Give me the money” in a video used by the NFL as evidence in its investigation of the Saints’ bounty program.
A day after Hargrove and three of his ex-teammates made appeals of their suspensions at NFL headquarters, he returned to the sidewalk outside the league offices Tuesday for an informal news conference. As curious passers-by huddled around, Hargrove read a 13-minute statement, making references to Bill Clinton and the Mona Lisa and often sounding like a colorful defense attorney giving a closing argument.
“I’ve never offered nor received money to intentionally hurt a player,” Hargrove said.
On Monday, the NFL showed reporters a clip from the 2010 NFC championship game in which Hargrove purportedly made the “money” comment about injuring then-Vikings quarterback Brett Favre. Hargrove insisted it was someone else uttering those words, though he said he didn’t know who.
Hargrove was flagged and subsequently fined $5,000 for a flagrant hit on Favre, who returned to the game.
“This happens,” Hargrove said, looking into the TV cameras. “Brett, I’m truly sorry.”
Hargrove, now with Green Bay, has been suspended for eight games.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said: “We stand by the findings of our investigation.”
On Monday, Hargrove, Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Jonathan Vilma attended appeals hearings with Commissioner Roger Goodell. After the sessions, the NFL presented the same evidence it showed the players to reporters. The Hargrove clip was part of that.
An NFL investigation found that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams ran a system from 2009 through last season under which New Orleans players received cash bonuses for hits that knocked specific opponents out of games. Williams has been suspended indefinitely and other Saints coaches also have been punished.
Wearing a backward baseball cap and a white T-shirt, Hargrove called NFL officials “master politicians,” making an analogy to Clinton’s use of semantics when he said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” And just as the Mona Lisa does not appear to smiling unless you look close enough, Hargrove declared, the league’s evidence does not hold up to closer scrutiny.
Hargrove, though, offered few specifics to back up his vivid imagery.
“I have felt like the target of a sophisticated mugging,” he said.