NFL attorney: Hargrove was told to lie

On Wednesday we noted that Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove received the second-harshest penalty among the four players suspended in the NFL's investigation of the New Orleans Saints' bounty program. In a news release, the league said Hargrove "actively obstructed" the league's original investigation in 2010 by "being untruthful to investigators."

On Thursday, an attorney hired by the NFL to provide independent analysis of the investigation revealed a surprising nugget. Namely: In his signed declaration, Hargrove said he had been instructed to lie by a party the attorney refused to name. Here is what attorney Mary Joe White said in a media conference call on that topic: "In [the declaration], he acknowledges the nature of the program and his participation in it. And, which was 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."

When asked if Hargrove revealed who advised him to lie, White said: "He did, but I don’t think it is appropriate to reveal that."

From the top, I'll say that every man must own his words. However it came to be, a lie is a lie and Hargrove told one. But I do think this revelation provides some important context for understanding why Hargrove acted in a way that was ultimately responsible for the severity of his eight-game suspension.

At the time of his 2010 discussion with the NFL, Hargrove had just wrapped up his first season after returning from a league suspension. The Saints were one of only a few teams that had expressed any interest in him, and with his contract expiring, Hargrove was hoping the Saints would offer him a new deal to return.

Hargrove likely would have severed his ties with the Saints organization and probably submarined his career if he had admitted anything in 2010 that would have implicated the Saints. He had a tough choice to make with potentially destructive consequences in either direction. I don't know who instructed him to lie, but conspiracy theorists could run wild given what we already know about the lying that went on during this investigation.

Again, Hargrove must take ultimate responsibility for lying. But there are a lot of layers left to be pulled back here, and the question of who instructed Anthony Hargrove to deny the existence of a bounty program is one of them.