The Saints also have been punished harshly as an organization, including a full-season suspension of head coach Sean Payton. General manager Mickey Loomis was suspended eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt six games. The team also was fined $500,000 and docked second-round draft picks this year and next.
Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has been suspended indefinitely. His former players have said Williams purposefully used nasty, violent language as a motivational tool, but that his speeches weren't meant to be taken literally.
On Friday afternoon, the NFL forwarded evidence to the four punished players, in line with a provision in the league's current labor agreement requiring evidence which will be presented at an appeal hearing to be shared three calendar days beforehand.
Representatives of the players have said evidence they have seen indicates the Saints had a pay-for-performance program common among many teams, but that the NFL has shared nothing showing that any player was ever paid for injuring a targeted opponent.
Phil Williams said the fact that the NFL waited until the last allowable time to share evidence indicates that league officials are more interested in making it harder to challenge their findings than they are in the truth.
Williams also suggested that the NFL was being hypocritical in saying that much of Hargrove's punishment stemmed from Hargrove lying to NFL investigators when they interviewed him in 2010.
Since that interview, Hargrove has signed a declaration in which he described how he followed Gregg Williams' instructions to deny the existence of a bounty program when questioned about it by the league. However, Hargrove's sworn statement does not say that he lied or say what he knew about the bounty program that the league has said the Saints ran from 2009 to 2011.
Last month, before Hargrove's declaration was made public, Mary Jo White, an outside lawyer hired by the NFL to review its bounty probe, said Hargrove's statement confirmed the existence of a bounty program and that he initially lied to investigators about it.