Defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove hadn’t given up on his NFL career, but he admits he wondered if he would get another chance.
Whether it was his role in the New Orleans Saints’ Bountygate, his release from the Green Bay Packers last summer, his year out of football, his injury lawsuit against the NFL or the fact that he turns 30 this summer, Hargrove’s phone didn’t ring until the Dallas Cowboys called.
“Sitting out for a year, you don’t know where life is heading,” Hargrove said Tuesday during the Cowboys’ first organized team activity. “I understand how this game works, and when you don’t have a year of film, people are less inclined to bring you in, because they don’t have enough film to evaluate you on. It put me at a disadvantage, but you know God is good and it always works out.”
It is a no-lose signing for the Cowboys, who gave Hargrove a one-year, $840,000 deal. Hargrove can play every position on the defensive line, though he is best as an inside rusher on passing downs. He also has covered kickoffs.
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Hargrove, who arrived at Valley Ranch after free agent Brian Price didn’t work out, could help spell Jason Hatcher and Jay Ratliff inside as the Cowboys move from the 3-4 to the 4-3.
“We like him,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We’ve liked him a lot. We’ve competed against him through the years. He’s a darn good football player. He has been for a couple different teams in this league. So we’ve always kind of admired him in competition. He was available.”
Hargrove has been here previously, trying to take advantage of a second chance. He did that in 2009, after nearly losing his career for violations of the league’s substance abuse policy that put him out of the league in 2008 and in rehab for 10 months.
The Saints were the only team that offered him a contract a year later. Hargrove played 56.9 percent of the defensive snaps and recorded 63 tackles, five sacks and three fumble recoveries in 2009 as New Orleans won the Super Bowl.
Hargrove now is with his seventh team, counting his brief tenure with the Packers last year after signing a one-year, $825,000 deal. Green Bay released him rather than place him on the reserved/suspended list after the league announced his eight-game suspension for Bountygate.
“You guys have got to make up your minds on really what took place there,” Hargrove said. “I had to live with it. I had to deal with it. It’s a new day in my life. It’s 2013. I’m trying to continue my career and finish up in a strong way.”
Though his suspension eventually was reduced to two games, Hargrove said it “took my earning power away” and wishes “people would have treated it differently.” But he insists he has moved on.
Instead of playing football, Hargrove spent last season working for Acclaim Care, a residential program for mentally challenged adults in Richmond, Va.
“It puts life into perspective,” Hargrove said. “It’s easy to feel bad for yourself because so much stuff happens to you. But when you’re able to sit down with someone who’s much less fortunate than you are, life definitely comes in place. You understand, ‘Hey, my life isn’t that bad.’”
Hargrove still has an injury lawsuit pending against the league, and according to Pro Football Talk, it claims playing football causes him to suffer “from permanent injuries, including, but not limited to, severe headaches, memory loss, depression, isolation, mental anguish and diminished self-esteem.”
“Can’t comment on that,” Hargrove said. “It is what it is. I’m here to play ball, and I’m going to try to do my best and not let anything outside of that hinder me getting on this field and playing.”
Garrett said the Cowboys are comfortable with Hargrove’s off-field issues, having “evaluated the circumstances.”
Hargrove’s career is complicated, but his goal is simple: He wants to prove the Cowboys right.
“Maybe I’m an enigma for trouble,” Hargrove said. “I’m trying to get past this three-year thing where I can maybe get five years in the league without losing a year. Maybe that’s what teams are thinking. I don’t know. We’re going to try to break that.”