Former Saints DE Anthony Hargrove reminisces on Bountygate, struggles before and after


Remember Bountygate?  Of course you do.  But I’m not here to talk about the pain and pleasures that came along with the New Orleans Saints‘ legendary Super Bowl XLIV run in 2009.  I’m here to tell you about Anthony Hargrove, one of the suspended players in 2012 after the scandal was revealed in 2010 and eventually dealt with by the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell following two years of investigation.

Before meeting with the Black and Gold and joining the team just in time for the world title season, Hargrove was banned for the entire 2008 season after violating the league’s substance abuse police.  Throughout his early career, he struggled with excessive drinking, along with marijuana and cocaine use, but I’m not here to talk about all of that either.

Anthony Hargrove was featured in a Sports Illustrated piece Wednesday, discussing Bountygate, life after, and life in general.

"In May 2012, commissioner Roger Goodell suspended four players for their alleged roles in the program: Hargrove (eight games), linebackers Scott Fujita (three games) and Jonathan Vilma (the entire 2012 season), and defensive end Will Smith (four games). Hargrove had left the Saints in ’11 for the Eagles and thenSeahawks before signing with the Packers in March ’12. Green Bay would release him in August. In December, NFL appeals arbitrator Paul Tagliabue would vacate all the Bountygate players’ suspensions and single out Hargrove’s discipline as “unprecedented and unwarranted.”To this day Hargrove maintains that there was no bounty system and that he never blabbed to anyone on the Vikings about such a program. He claims that his punishment was based on what he told an NFL investigator in 2010 but that the league didn’t seem certain what was discussed in that interview, who was present or who had done the questioning. (When asked about the interview, the NFL declined comment to SI.) Recalls Hargrove’s agent, Phil Williams: “I thought I was in the Twilight Zone.”To many, Tagliabue’s reversal was a victory. To Hargrove and those who worked to clear his name, it was something different altogether. “I can have the lawyer’s satisfaction that we ultimately won the arbitration,” says David Greenspan, who represented the player on behalf of the NFLPA. “But Anthony lost his career in the process.”Hargrove gave the NFL one more shot, signing in the spring of 2013 with theCowboys, but he felt he was allowed no more than a token chance to make the team. As he rehabbed surgeries on both knees, he was cut before training camp, and it was there that his fire extinguished. “If it didn’t work in Dallas . . . it was going to be over,” he says.Though he would love to be remembered as a good teammate and a Super Bowl champion, Hargrove has not been able to escape the infamy of scandal. On visits back home in New York he hears people joke, “Pay me my money!” Playing flag football, opponents kid, “Ain’t no bounties out here!” He once coached a youth team in Port Charlotte, where he has lived since 2011, but he had to persuade parents that he won’t teach their children to play dirty. “That bounty thing trickled down to my personal life,” Hargrove says. “I can’t go anywhere [without] people referring to that.”But while this may have seemed like another cue to relapse—“could send me back out there snorting cocaine, drinking or even possibly committing suicide, because . . . it hurts so bad,” he says—Hargrove insists that he has stayed clean due to the strength he developed in the NFL’s drug treatment program, in which he participated from that second season in St. Louis through the end of his career in 2013. “I’m not going to play a victim,” he says. “I’m not going to use this as an excuse to mess up my life again.”None of that has come easily. Hargrove has three children whom he wishes he could see more often. His dream of starting a business with his brother ended when Terrence was stabbed to death in North Port, Fla., in June 2011. Instead, Hargrove shares his story as a motivational speaker; he’s had gigs in Georgia, Virginia and Florida, one of which was paid. He loves golf and has found good work as a marine carpenter in Port Charlotte, where he crafts boat lifts and docks from lumber. Hargrove has always been able with his hands. As a kid he used to help his uncle install satellite dishes, pave driveways and build churches, and last winter he stayed a few weeks at his agent Phil Williams’s Tennessee home and helped around the property, fixing up an old shed and nailing together a guinea coop.But he no longer watches football on Sundays; the pain and embarrassment are still too great. (He has, however, started following NFL news over the last few weeks.) In recalling his public castigation, he appears at once bitter, hurt and confused. In the end, disproving a bounty program may be a tougher task than proving one, because the Saints’ defense during those years embraced a culture of extreme machismo. (Not that the Saints were alone in this.) Crude, seemingly incriminating language was often used in meetings; sometimes dollar amounts were used as rah-rah talk after big, legal hits, according to multiple Saints defenders. But up and down the roster, on and off the record, Saints players deny the NFL’s interpretation that they were out for blood."

Nobody really knew the true pain Anthony Hargrove struggled with. His life has been a roller coaster ride.  It’s something he seems to have learned from, helping him become a better person.  From all of us here at Who Dat Dish, we’d like to wish Anthony Hargrove the best of luck, wherever the road may take him.

More from Who Dat Dish