Rather than being miffed that an eight-game suspension potentially has endangered his opportunity to make the Green Bay Packers’ roster, much less contribute, Anthony Hargrove used the words “joyous” and “blessed.”
“I’ve been very joyous,” Hargrove said after Tuesday’s organized team activity, his first full-team practice since joining the Packers as a free agent. “I’ve been at peace throughout this entire process. It’s a great opportunity to be a Green Bay Packer. You’ve got to understand, how many times do you get to come to play for a franchise and organization like this? Late in my career, I’m just excited to be on the field, compete for another Super Bowl.”
Hargrove was suspended for his role in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal and was given a stiff penalty for lying to NFL investigators.
Lying maybe isn’t the right word. In a document that he sent to the NFL and the NFL leaked to The Associated Press, Hargrove said he was told to “play dumb” by former assistant coaches Gregg Williams and Joe Vitt. Vitt, in turn, has denied asking Hargrove to lie.
“In this business, you’re always supposed to do what your coaches tell you to do,” Hargrove said. “And my response was what it was. Everything that I gave in that declaration outlines exactly what happened then. My coaches ask me to do something, I’ll do it. It’s the same way I’m going to be here. Coach Dom (Capers) asks me to go out and get the quarterback, I’m going to go get the quarterback. That’s just my responsibility as a player.”
Hargrove, Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith and Scott Fujita have appealed the suspensions, and the NFLPA has filed grievances with the NFL, arguing that commissioner Roger Goodell overstepped his bounds by punishing players for actions that predated the new collective bargaining agreement.
Hargrove had no interest in discussing his appeal. Rather, he said he was focused on learning the playbook and the technique changes he’ll have to incorporate to play end in the Packers’ 3-4 scheme, and he reiterated his happiness to be with the Packers. If Tuesday’s practice showed anything, it’s that Hargrove will add a shot of energy to a defensive line that wasn’t nearly productive enough last season.
“I want to say thank you to the Green Bay Packers, for giving me the opportunity to become a Packer,” Hargrove said. “Thanks to Ted Thompson, head coach Mike McCarthy, Dom Capers, my D-line coach, coach (Mike) Trgovac, for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to come here and be a Green Bay Packer. I never got the chance to say thank you to the guys. And to the Green Bay Packer Nation, I’m happy to be here and I can’t wait to get to work this season for you.”
— Of the 90-man roster, only Donald Driver and Charles Woodson were not at the voluntary practice. Driver, of course, is in Los Angeles for the finale of “Dancing with the Stars.” Woodson took part in meetings, coach Mike McCarthy said.
Players who were held out for medical reasons: running back Alex Green, safety Charlie Peprah, fullbacks John Kuhn and Jon Hoese, linebacker Frank Zombo, guard Jaymes Brooks, defensive lineman Mike Daniels, offensive tackle Derek Sherrod and tight end Andrew Quarless.
— Without Peprah, Morgan Burnett was the only solid starter at safety, with Anthony Levine, M.D. Jennings and rookie Jerron McMillian getting their chances with the No. 1 unit. First-round pick Nick Perry lined up in the starting lineup at left outside linebacker and second-round pick Jerel Worthy was one of the No. 1 defensive linemen in nickel.
“We want to get a feel for all the young guys and you want to roll as many different combinations as you can,” McCarthy said. “That when things get a little disjointed there as far as the different personnel groups, especially going against our offense. We don't just line up in one or two personnel groups. We're evaluating everything: personnel, substitution. ... That's really what our message to the players was today, the fact that we have nine practices and the three minicamp practices. You have 12 opportunities to learn your job and, frankly, if you don't know what's expected of you by June 14, your chances to make our football team drop drastically. And that's our focus."
— Clay Matthews isn’t the only linebacker on the move. Brad Jones and Jamari Lattimore have been moved to inside linebacker.
— Aaron Rodgers threw two interceptions. One was a diving interception by Jennings. The second was a bomb to Jordy Nelson, with cornerback Sam Shields using his speed to run it down in the end zone.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.