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Posted at 03:27 PM ET, 05/08/2012

Joe Vitt says he never told Anthony Hargrove to lie about Saints’ bounties

Joe Vitt, the interim head coach of the New Orleans Saints, denied telling Anthony Hargrove, the team’s former defensive end, to lie about the team’s bounty program.

Hargrove, who now plays for the Green Bay Packers and is appealing an eight-game suspension for his involvement with bounties, claimed in a statement obtained by Yahoo! Sports on Monday that Vitt and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had instructed him in a 30-minute meeting to mislead NFL investigators in 2010.

“At no time did I ever tell Anthony Hargrove to lie or deny the existence [of the alleged bounty program],” Vitt told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Vitt, an assistant defensive coach who is filling in as head coach during Sean Payton’s year-long suspension, was suspended six games himself. “He can say whatever he wants to say. It just didn't happen.”

Joe Vitt, the Saints’ interim head coach. (Jonathan Bachman / AP)
In the document, which he signed and sent to the NFL through the NFL Players Association in April, Hargrove said he followed instructions to “act dumb” if asked about bounties. Hargrove said that Vitt and Williams repeatedly said that they “care about me and ... if we all stay on the same page about this, it will blow over.” Hargrove did not admit the existence of a bounty program, only that he was told to “act dumb” about it.

“We had a pot for big plays, the same thing everyone else in the league has, now they call them pay-for-performance. But we never paid for dirty hits,” Vitt said. “I'll say it again, the exact same thing I told the commissioner, our players never crossed the white lines with an intent to maim or injure. They never threatened the integrity of the game when they crossed the white lines.”

The Saints’ Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith and Scott Fujita, now with Cleveland, also were suspended and appealed their suspensions Monday to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

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