Suspended defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove has a simple explanation for the league's claim it has audio from the 2009 NFC Championship Game tying him directly to the New Orleans Saints' "bounty" program: The voice on the tape isn't his.
The audio -- released by the league Monday -- originated from a sideline exchange between assistant coach Joe Vitt and Saints defensive players in the third quarter. Vitt alerts his players -- erroneously as it turned out -- that Brett Favre would be out of the game with a serious leg injury.
Hargrove, who is not seen in the NFL Films camera shot, purportedly says to teammate Bobby McCray, "Bobby, give me my money." The league has alleged there was at least a $35,000 bounty on Favre in the game.
"Here's the problem with that," Hargrove said in an extended statement read Tuesday in front of the league's headquarters in New York. "It wasn't me. That's right. The NFL got their evidence all wrong. In their rush to convict me, they made a very serious error. Is it intentional? I don't know. But one thing I do know with absolute certainty ... it ... was ... not ... me!
"Like I said, lean in closer, look closer, listen closer. It is not my voice. Anyone who knows me well knows that it is not me. But the NFL does not know me well. They simply make assumptions. With ... my ... life."
In response to Hargrove, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told NFL.com, "We stand by the findings of our investigation."
As ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert pointed out Monday night, there's a gap in logic that could support Hargrove's claim. The ankle injury Vitt refers to in the video came on a hit by McCray and defensive tackle Remi Ayodele, not Hargrove. Though Hargrove was flagged for unnecessary roughness on a Favre hit earlier in the game, the quarterback did not appear to be injured on the play.
If Hargrove's claim is proven to be correct, the NFL investigation has itself a major blemish.