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Ex-Saint: Coaches told me to "play dumb" on bounty investigation

(AP) NEW ORLEANS - Former Saints defensive lineman Anthony Hargove describes in a sworn statement how he was told by ex-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and current Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt to deny the existence of a bounty program to NFL investigators.

In a document first published by Yahoo Sports and also 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 is a point of contention between the NFL and the NFL Players Association.

From the union's perspective, Hargrove's statement does not specifically say that he lied to anyone, nor does it state that he or any other Saints participated in a bounty program.

The NFL has said, however, that Hargrove's statement acknowledges the existence of a bounty program and shows that Hargrove initially lied to NFL investigators about it. Hargrove was suspended eight games for his alleged role in the cash-for-hits scheme.

Meanwhile Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma appealed his season-long suspension under the bounty investigation, which named him as a ringleader of the cash-for-hits system.

Vilma appeals suspension in Saints bounty case

In papers filed Monday, Vilma argued that Commissioner Roger Goodell should not hear the appeal and asked for a delay in the process until the jurisdictional issue has been settled through NFL Players Association grievances filed last week.

Vilma's appeal also says the NFL has failed to present evidence linking him to a system in which players were paid to injure opponents. It asks the league to provide documentation, including witness statements and the names of those witnesses.

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Vilma and Hargrove are two of four players given suspensions of various lengths as a result of the NFL's bounty probe, along with Saints defensive end Will Smith (four games) and former Saint Scott Fujita (three games).

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