More lines have been drawn in the proverbial sand in the NFL's bounty case against the New Orleans Saints.
Former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita, a union leader who has criticized the NFL's player-safety record, calls the league's actions part of a "smear campaign" in which he may be a target for retribution.
"I'm not saying the NFL is intentionally lying," Fujita said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I've been willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they may have just been working with the information they've been given, even though much of that information was inaccurate and lacked credibility.
"It's their cavalier interpretation of everything that's been way off. They clearly proceeded with a public smear campaign with very little regard for the truth."
Now with the Cleveland Browns, Fujita faces a three-game ban for his alleged involvement in a Saints' bounty system in 2009.
In 2010, Fujita became a member of the NFLPA executive committee and has since been openly critical of the league for its recent stance on the effects of concussions and the potential results leading to brain disease.
Also, the NFL accused former Saints defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove of telling then-teammate Bobby McCray to "give me my money"during the NFC Championship Game in 2010 against the Minnesota Vikings.
The comment, allegedly triggered by news that Vikings quarterback Brett Favre had been knocked out of the game due to injury, was interpreted as a sign by NFL investigators that a 'bounty' had been placed on the legendary passer.
Former and once again current Saints defensive tackle Remi Ayodele was in the sideline huddle around assistant head coach Joe Vitt, seated near Hargrove when the remark allegedly was made. Ayodele's agent Jordan Woy says his client cannot remember what was said.
"He doesn't recall hearing the statement," Woy wrote in an e-mail to NFL.com. "It was made three years ago in the middle of a huge game."
The NFL has suspended Hargrove, now with the Green Bay Packers, for eight games for what NFL general counsel Jeff Pash his knowledge of the bounty program and subsequent lies about its existence.
"I suppose you could watch anything enough times and come up with different conclusions, but we didn't discipline Anthony Hargrove for taking any money in the context of this program," Pash said. "What that videotape rather clearly demonstrates is two things: One, there was a program and it corroborates rather clearly that there was a program where a player could be rewarded for making a play that resulted in an injury to an opponent ... second, it demonstrates Mr. Hargrove's awareness of the program and his understanding that it existed, and it demonstrates that his statements to our investigators in early 2010 denying the program and saying there was nothing like that in existence were false. That is the basis on which the Commissioner imposed discipline on Mr. Hargrove."
The NFLPA has openly requested that the league start the bounty investigation from scratch. Union head DeMaurice Smith sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell asking for another probe because Smith believes, as he told ProFootballTalk, the league's investigators have "let down the commissioner" so far.
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