Former Saint has already been suspended twice by the league
Unable to sign a proven pass rusher in free agency and unwilling to rely on the likes of Erik Walden and Jarius Wynn for another season, the normally conservative Ted Thompson now appears willing to go the unconventional route in an effort to improve what was his team’s Achilles’ heel in 2011. What other explanation could there be for defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove’s arrival in Green Bay on Friday morning?
How unusual is Thompson’s interest in Hargrove? It’s about as unusual as Charles Barkley or Warren Sapp making a cogent point on a pregame show. The former Georgia Tech star would seem to be the last player the Packers would be interested in signing. Not only is he undersized for a 3-4 end (he weighed 282 pounds with Philly last summer), but he carries more baggage than a Boeing 787. The 28-year-old was traded from St. Louis to Buffalo after an unexcused and unexplained two-day absence in ’06, and he was suspended for the first four games of the ’07 season and the entire ’08 season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Hargrove managed to avoid controversy for the past three years, but that came to an end earlier this month when the ex-Saint was forced to release a statement to address media reports about his role in the 2010 NFC Championship game. According to the National Football League, 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 $5,000 for a late hit on Favre. And according to a story by Peter King in Sports Illustrated, Hargrove was heard screaming “Favre is out of the game! Favre is done! Favre is done!” after the quarterback briefly left the game with an ankle injury.
In the statement released on Mar. 8, Hargrove said, “I have made many mistakes in my life and have paid dearly for some of them, and the late hit and the comments were both mistakes, in my opinion. But 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.”
Unexplained absences, multiple drug suspensions and a potential starring role in one of the biggest scandals in the history of the NFL. Look, I’m still not sure what coach Mike McCarthy meant by the term “Packer People” in the missionary statement he read at his introductory press conference in 2006, but I’m pretty sure Hargrove doesn’t fit the criteria.
So why is Thompson even remotely interested in such a player? Probably because he knows how anemic the pass rush was last season and how difficult it will be to make it significantly better in 2012. He already knows that the defense will be without Mike Neal for the first four games due to a suspension. Make any snide remark you want, but the organization still has, or at least had, high hopes for the former Purdue star. Sure the upcoming draft could help, but it’s always a crapshoot picking near the end of round one. For every one Nick Mangold, there are three Ahmad Carrolls.
Hargrove has only 19.5 sacks in 102 games so he’s far from a dynamic pass rusher, but he has shown the ability to beat guards and provide inside pressure – at least in spurts – throughout his career. He gets off the ball quickly and flashes explosiveness at times. His problem has always been finishing plays. He tends to get lost in traffic too often and he lacks a closing burst. Still after watching Neal, Wynn, Ryan Pickett, C.J. Wilson and Howard Green “rush” last season, the thought of having a player within even five feet of the quarterback has to make Thompson smile just a little.
OK, there is another possibility to explain Thompson’s interest in Hargrove. The always mellow Texan will never admit it, but it’s safe to assume he hates Favre with a passion. And let’s be honest, who could blame him. Not only did the old pervert literally throw away Thompson’s first legitimate crack at taking a team to the Super Bowl, but he spent an entire summer bad-mouthing his former boss in every medium available. So maybe Thompson got goose bumps watching Hargrove attempt to decapitate Favre in that championship game and simply wants to say thanks by signing him to a modest contract. Of course, I’m just kidding, but it almost makes as much sense as any other theory.