From Comcast SportsNetNEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Former Saints defensive lineman Anthony Hargove describes in a sworn statement how he was told by ex-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and current New Orleans assistant head coach Joe Vitt to deny the existence of a bounty program to NFL investigators.In a document obtained Monday by The Associated Press, Hargrove acknowledges that he acted on Williams' and Vitt's instructions to "play dumb" if asked whether he was aware of bounties being placed on former Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre or any other player.The declaration does not go into specifics, however, about just what Hargrove knew or did not know about the bounty program in New Orleans, and for that reason it has become a point of contention between the NFL and the NFL Players Association.From the union's perspective, Hargrove's statement does not say that he lied to anyone, nor does it state that he or any other Saints participated in a bounty program that offered cash bonuses for hits that injured targeted opponents.The NFL, by contrast, has said that Hargrove's words acknowledge the existence of a bounty program and show that Hargrove initially lied to NFL investigators about it.In describing Hargrove's declaration last week, Mary Jo White, a former U.S. attorney hired by the NFL to review its investigation, said the player, "acknowledges the nature of the program and his participation in it, and, which is really the thrust of the declaration, that he was told to lie about it, and he did when he was asked about it in 2010 by the NFL investigators."Hargrove, currently with Green Bay, was one of four players who received suspensions of various lengths in connection with the bounty probe. Hargrove was suspended eight games, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the entire season, Saints defensive end Will Smith for four games and Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita for three games.Vilma's attorney, Peter Ginsberg called the NFL's characterization of Hargrove's statement "misleading.""All we know from the declaration is that a couple of coaches were in trouble and hoped for support from him," Ginsberg said. "Anthony's declaration in no way supports that he lied, that a bounty system existed or that players participated in any kind of inappropriate program. It's a shame that the NFL needed to have mischaracterized that declaration in order to justify these punishments. It's just another reason to conclude that the NFL has no evidence to justify what it has done to the players."The NFL has said the Saints' bounty program was run by Williams from 2009 through 2011. Williams has been suspended indefinitely by the league and has apologized for his actions.All four players are appealing. The NFLPA also has filed grievances with the NFL, arguing that Commissioner Roger Goodell lacked the authority to punish players for off-the-field matters that predated last August's new collective bargaining agreement, and that Goodell should not hear the appeals of the players' suspensions in the bounty matter.No other players are mentioned in Hargrove's sworn statement, which also does not contain any description of payments being pledged, made, or received.In his declaration, first published Monday by Yahoo Sports, Hargrove describes how he was called into a late February 2010 meeting with Williams and Vitt. The coaches said they had heard Hargrove might have told Minnesota Vikings player Jimmy Kennedy -- a friend and former teammate in St. Louis -- that there had been a bounty on Favre in the NFL title game near the end of the 2009 season.The statement then describes Williams saying, in obscenity-laced terms, that league officials, "have been trying to get me for years," and "if we all stay on the same page, this will blow over."It also describes Vitt reminding Hargrove that he brought him into the league with St. Louis and later brought him to the Saints -- a second chance Hargrove had sought in the NFL after being suspended for drug abuse.Hargrove's statement says that in March 2010 he met with NFL investigators, who asked him a range of questions about a bounty program in New Orleans, and that he denied knowledge of any of it, in line with the "clear directions" he had received from Williams and Vitt.
A new Chicago Fire season is near, which means it's a good time to start a new podcast.
Shane Murray, a Fire contributor for MLSSoccer.com, joined me for our new endeavor: the Fire Talk Podcast.
This first episode focused on the key departures and new additions to the Fire this season and served as a look ahead to the 2017 season. We looked at the additions made to the team, how the team may line up to start the season and what improvements still need to be made.
Also, the Fire are 5-0 in the preseason, but do preseason results matter?
Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:
Jimmy Butler was the lone member of the Bulls not at practice Wednesday night at the Advocate Center. But the three-time All-Star wasn't on his way to Boston as part of a blockbuster trade. Instead, he was simply receiving an extra day of rest after a busy weekend in New Orleans.
With a little more than 12 hours remaining until the NBA trade deadline - Thursday at 2 p.m. CT - the Bulls' roster remains intact. Butler continues to be linked to the Boston Celtics - although multiple reports have stated that the two sides remain far off on a potential deal - and the likes of Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott and Robin Lopez all have popped up in various trade rumors over the past week. Even Fred Hoiberg said "Jimmy's obviously been great for us and we thinkn that will obviously continue to happen" when asked if the team's leadeing scorer might be dealt.
The latest report came Wednesday evening when The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Bulls are continuing their pursuit of Chicago native and Sixers center Jahlil Okafor, with Mirotic as a potential part of the package going back to Philadelphia.
Fred Hoiberg, who's been in a front office role at the deadline with the Minnesota Timberwolves, said he understands the trade deadline process of needing to "listen to everything and see if there's something that can help out without jeopardizing the future." But Hoiberg, as he's done when asked about the deadline the last few weeks, reiterated that "99 percent of the things that you hear and read don't transpire."
Still, as a former player he's aware of the strain the trade deadline can put on players, specifically players of a team in selling mode. He's implored his team to not read too much into reports and sources that pop up on social media and to focus on the task at hand, a Friday night matchup against the Suns.
"I don't think it's affected us at all. I think our guys have done a great job. Again, there's so many rumors that get thrown against the wall and that's what most of them are, they're rumors," Hoiberg said. "Our guys have done a good job ignoring that and going out and trying to work through and control what they can control, and that's going out and competing."
Butler has strung together another career year and started Sunday's All-Star Game for the first time in his career. But as the Bulls internally discuss whether to begin their rebuild - which would come in the form of dealing Butler to the Celtics for young assets - Dwyane Wade, who is expected to play through his wrist injury Friday against the Suns, understands that every rumor, report and eventual trade is fair game this time of the year.
"It's a business. every organization has a job to do to try to make their orgnaizatioon the way that they see fit. and as players you can't get sensitive about that at all," Wade said. "Trade deadline is more talk than anything, normally, but it's exciting for the fans to see what the team is gonna do or don't do and all this and that. But a lot of it is just talk."
For the Bulls, all talk remained just that at last year's deadline. They find themselves in a similar position as they did last season, although wins over contenders in Toronto and Boston have produced some optimism for the seventh-seeded Bulls. The schedule doesn't get much easier in March, with the Bulls facing off against 11 current playoff teams in their next 14 games.
And they'll know a lot more about where they stand when the clock strikes 2 p.m. on Thursday.
"I think it's always a relief for anybody that's in this business once that trade deadline comes and goes," Hoiberg admitted. "Then you can just focus on what you need to work on and not have to worry about all the things that are being thrown around and all the rumors that are out there. Just worry about getting your guys ready to play the stretch run and again hopefully play well."