Anthony Hargrove: Hit a mistake

Former New Orleans Saints defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove released an extensive statement Thursday to address media reports about his role in the highly scrutinized 2009 NFC Championship Game between the Saints and the Minnesota Vikings.

According to the NFL, the Saints had an organized bounty program to reward players for knocking Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the game.

Hargrove was penalized and later fined for a late hit on Favre. And according to a Sports Illustrated report, Hargrove celebrated an ankle injury Favre later suffered by saying: "Favre is out of the game! Favre is done! Favre is done!"

In the statement, Hargrove said "the late hit and the comments were both mistakes," but denied that either was motivated by a bounty system. He said he "absolutely and categorically" did not want Favre to be injured and received "nothing for the play some keep referencing."

In the statement, Hargrove added: "Players all over the league do the same thing every Sunday, make late hits and say stupid things. But I can say with absolute certainty that neither the late hit nor the comment have anything whatsoever to do with the issue being so hotly discussed in the media."

Hargrove played last season for the Seattle Seahawks and is a pending free agent.

After the NFL made its investigation public Friday, former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams admitted to running a bounty pool of up to $50,000 during the past three seasons, rewarding players for knocking targeted opponents out of games.

The league now wants to know whether Williams -- who recently left the Saints to become defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams -- ran a similar scheme while a head coach or assistant with the Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins, Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills.

It took until Tuesday for current Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis to also acknowledge the existence of the bounty system.

The NFL Players Association said Wednesday it will do its own investigation of the Saints' bounty system and asked the league to help set up interviews with the team's coaches and front-office staff. In a statement released Wednesday, the union vowed to "vigorously protect the rights of all players."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.