Coach Denies Telling Hargrove To 'Play Dumb'

Anthony Hargrove (George Gojkovich/Getty)

"He can say whatever he wants to say. It just didn't happen," suspended interim coach Joe Vitt said told the New Orleans Times Picayune.

Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt denied instructing defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove to "play dumb" when questioned by NFL security about the team's bounty program.

Vitt told the New Orleans Times Picayune that conversation never took place.

"At no time did I ever tell Anthony Hargrove to lie or deny the existence (of the alleged bounty program)," Vitt said. "He can say whatever he wants to say. It just didn't happen."

Hargrove's signed declaration was published by Yahoo Sports on Monday. Vitt acknowledged the pay-for-performance program was in place but denied it was a "bounty" program.

"We had a pot for big plays, the same thing everyone else in the league has, now they call them pay-for-performance. But we never paid for dirty hits," Vitt said. "I'll say it again, the exact same thing I told the commissioner, our players never crossed the white lines with an intent to maim or injure. They never threatened the integrity of the game when they crossed the white lines."

Hargrove, now with the Packers, was one of four players suspended in the bounty scandal fallout, filed for an appeal by Monday's deadline. Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, defensive end Will Smith and Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita also filed appeals after being suspended.

Hargrove's admission was reportedly signed on April 13.

In the document, Hargrove said that on approximately Feb. 24, 2010, he was called to a meeting with Williams and, after initially talking about him starting at defensive end, the conversation centered around denying that the team ever used bounties.

The signed document, a graphic of which was posted by Yahoo, said, in part:

"Williams said he was going to deny the existence of any bounty on any player to the NFL, and I should deny it, too. Coach Vitt also said he was going to deny the existence of any bounties. Coach Williams said: "Those (obscenity deleted ...referring to NFL) have been trying to get me for years," and if we all "stay on the same page, this will blow over."

The NFL's investigation into the bounty scandal cited "multiple independent sources" who confirmed that Vilma offered specific cash bounties for any player who knocked Kurt Warner or Brett Favre out of their respective playoff games during the Saints' Super Bowl run following the 2009 season.

Hargrove signed with the Packers this spring after playing for the Seahawks in 2011. He was suspended eight games. In its May 2 statement, the NFL reported that Hargrove had been untruthful to investigators about the bounty program, but submitted a signed declaration to the league that established both the existence of the program and his participation in it.

Per the labor agreement between the NFL and the players' association, the appeals will go directly to commissioner Roger Goodell. If his suspension is upheld, Vilma will not be eligible to be reinstated until after the Super Bowl in 2013. Smith was suspended for first four games of 2012 and Fujita for the first three games.


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