Ex-Saint: Coaches made me lie about bounties

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Ex-Saint: Coaches made me lie about bounties

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.

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John Wall and Wizards' partnership is a display of commitment rarely seen

John Wall and Wizards' partnership is a display of commitment rarely seen

No player has defined the Washington Wizards organization since they rebranded 20 years ago quite like John Wall, a superstar point guard who has developed from a first overall pick into a perennial All-Star and pillar of playoff success. Wall has etched a unique legacy within the franchise's history in just seven NBA seasons. Now he has ensured them of at least six more.

It's the yearly terms that stand out most in Wall's new contract with the Wizards, a four-year extension worth $170 million. Four years does not sound long, but that will take Wall through at least the majority, if not all, of his prime. He will enter his Age 27 season this fall, but with two years left on his current deal Wall's new contract will keep him in Washington through 2023. He will be 32 by the time it expires.

If Wall complets those 13 seasons with the Wizards, barring a trade or something unforeseen, he will have played as long for one team as Wes Unseld (Bullets), Larry Bird (Celtics), Kevin McHale (Celtics), Magic Johnson (Lakers) and Isaiah Thomas (Pistons). Dwyane Wade spent 13 seasons with the Heat before leaving. Michael Jordan played 13 in Chicago. 

Among active players, only Dirk Nowitzki (Mavs, 19 years), Tony Parker (Spurs, 16), Manu Ginobli (Spurs, 15) and Udonis Haslem (Heat, 14) have been with one team longer than 13 years.

[RELATED: NBA reacts to John Wall's new contract]

Only Unseld has spent more than nine seasons with the Wizards/Bullets franchise. Wall is two years away from matching the six players tied for second with nine seasons including Phil Chenier, Gus Johnson and Elvin Hayes. Those guys were all Bullets. Wall is a Wizard through and through.

Evaluating this partnership from Wall's perspective is interesting. Naturally, the Wizards would be willing to retain him for the longhaul. He is one of the best players in the NBA and has the off-court comportment any team would covet as the face of their franchise. But for Wall to make this commitment is a rare display of loyalty in an age where NBA superstars jump teams like never before.

Loyalty may not be the perfect word, as ultimately Wall will make much more money in Washington than he could elsewhere. But his devotion to the city of Washington and finishing what he started with a franchise that has experienced many lean years for decades is nearly unparalleled in this day and age. 

Think about it. How many players in today's NBA more define the franchise they play for, not just in contemporary terms but in the team's history? Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City, Paul George left Indiana, Gordon Hayward left Utah and Chris Paul left the Clippers, all within the last 13 months. Meanwhile, Wall has never wavered publicly about his commitment to the Wizards.

[RELATED: Is Washington a basketball destination now?]

Wall's firm allegiance to the Wizards has helped the team hold up a point majority owner Ted Leonsis made during Wednesday's press conference to announce Otto Porter's own max contract, that he prefers "no drama" in contract negotiations. He boasted how there was no drama in Wall's first max deal signed back in 2013, nor was there any with Bradley Beal last summer or Porter this year. Now, with Wall's second contract, the Wizards have been able to get these deals done without any sort of realistic doubt for fans about their favorite players leaving. That is no small feat.

That is of course in great contrast with many NBA superstars between Dwight Howard's days in Orlando, Paul's time in New Orleans, Carmelo Anthony's tenure in both Denver and New York, LeBron James in both of his stints in Cleveland, etc. Some of those players left, some didn't. But all had drama that lasted for years and weighed heavily on everyone involved.

Wizards fans, on the other hand, had no serious fear of seeing Wall go. That is an unusual sense of security in most places but even more so in the city of Washington. Between Kirk Cousins and Bryce Harper, the thought of losing a franchise cornerstone is a very real thing for D.C. fans. Cousins and Harper have done nothing wrong and they shouldn't be faulted for playing their hand in what is ultimately a cutthroat business, but it's hard not to notice how Wall has gone out of his way to make D.C. his home, embracing the city in every sense.

Keeping great players and the longevity of stardom is something even more foreign to those who have rooted for the Bullets and Wizards over the last few decades. It's not that they haven't acquired superstars, they just haven't been able to keep them.

Chris Webber could end up in the Hall of Fame someday, but Washington traded him at the beginning of his prime. Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton and Ben Wallace all became stars after leaving D.C. and helped win a championship for the Detroit Pistons. Gilbert Arenas was a sensation, but his tenure was brief and ultimately catastrophic. 

Wall's career in Washington has already gone much differently than those. And because of his new contract, fans can dream about the future knowing he will be a part of it.

[RELATED: Wizards are building something special in Eastern Conference]

Legendary D.C. broadcaster Jim Vance passes away

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Legendary D.C. broadcaster Jim Vance passes away

Legendary broadcaster and Washington D.C. icon Jim Vance passed away this morning. Vance was 75 years old. 

Jackie Bradford, the President and General Manager of NBC4, announced the news this morning in a statement on the channel's website

"We are heartbroken to announce that Jim Vance died this morning," she wrote. "For more than 45 years, Jim Vance was not only the soul of NBC4 but of the entire Washington area. His smooth voice, brilliant mind and unforgettable laugh leaves each of us with a tremendous void."

"Jim loved his job, his family and Washington with all his heart, and we will all cherish the legacy he has left us forever."

For many DC locals, Vance was a nightly staple on their television. The anchor joined NBC4 in 1969, becomming a full-time anchor in 1972. 

Vance won 19 emmies for his 45 years of work at NBC4. In May of last year, he announced that he'd been diagnosed with cancer, but intended to work through the treatment. 

An actual cause of death has not been announced yet.