Panthers deactivate Greg Hardy

ByDavid Newton ESPN logo
Sunday, September 14, 2014

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers placed defensive end Greg Hardy on the inactive list for Sunday's home opener against the Detroit Lions.

The move came two days after coach Ron Rivera said he planned to start the 2013 Pro Bowl selection, who was found guilty in July by a Mecklenburg County judge of assaulting and threatening ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder.

"I know y'all are wondering [about Greg Hardy]," Rivera said after Carolina's 24-7 victory against Detroit. "I made the decision this morning. It was my decision because it was in the best interest of the Carolina Panthers."

Rivera said the decision wasn't made without discussion with others in the organization. He wouldn't expand on why the decision was in the best interest of the Panthers, and he limited the number of questions on Hardy.

Rivera said the league is dealing with difficult issues and so are the Panthers. He stressed letting the process play out.

"My rationale was it was in the best interest of the Carolina Panthers," Rivera added.

Rivera said Hardy will return to the lineup, but he wasn't specific.

"He will play as we go through this process," Rivera said. "Hopefully, we get it right."

Players throughout the Panthers' locker room said they want Hardy back on the field. Asked how they balance that between the public outcry for him not to be allowed to play, center Ryan Kalil tried to put it into perspective.

"Everybody has strong opinions about the topic at hand," said Kalil, a team captain. "I know I feel very strongly about it. At the same time, however you feel about the situation or the individuals, it's a mistake to start grouping them all into one big group.

"So everybody has the right to their each individual case, and I think that's what's happening here. For us, the biggest thing is not to get caught up in all the sensationalism and really let the facts play out before we start passing judgment and having opinions about it publicly.

"That's what we've decided as a team, and that's what we're doing. And the biggest thing, at the end of the day we still have a job to do."

Defensive end Charles Johnson was adamant he wanted Hardy back.

"Of course [we want him back]," he said. "Why would you ask that question?"

Told because people around the country are questioning whether Hardy should be allowed to play, Johnson said, "That's my teammate. I'm going to rally around my teammate."

Linebacker Thomas Davis said Carolina going 2-0 with starting quarterback Cam Newton missing the first game with fractured ribs and Hardy sitting for the second game shows "it's not about one man around here." He also said he would welcome Hardy back.

"Absolutely," Davis said. "He's one of our playmakers. He's one of the guys that makes our defense run. We feel we definitely are a better defense with him on the field. That's one of those things that we have to sit back as a team and players and let the situation play itself out and see what happens.

"In the meantime, we've got to continue to come to work and do what we're paid to do, and that's play football."

Tight end Greg Olsen said it's all about compartmentalization.

"I don't know what to say about it right now," he said. "There's a lot going on that needs to be sorted out on a lot of different fronts in our league right now, but we also have a lot of good guys, too."

Cornerback Antoine Cason understands why some are making the case that there was momentum building toward Hardy being inactive after what happened with former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

"That definitely can be said," he said. "That definitely can be assumed. However, I don't even know the specifics on either of those situations even. It's tough all the way around and everyone has their opinions about it. I really don't know and being the guy in those situations, I just feel for them. Who knows what happened and how it's reported, you never really know so like I said, for my teammate, just be by his side."

The San Francisco 49ers were aware of the Panthers' decision to deactivate Hardy but still listed defensive tackle Ray McDonaldamong their 46 active players Sunday night against the Bears. McDonaldwas arrested on suspicion of domestic violence on Aug. 31.

Rivera said Friday the team hadn't changed its stance on Hardy, who is appealing the verdict with a jury trial tentatively set for Nov. 17. Hardy's attorney insists the case won't be heard until 2015 because of the court's case backload. Under North Carolina law involving defendants convicted of a misdemeanor, the jury trial will take place as if no previous trial took place.

"We are in a process, and we're letting the process play its way out,'' Rivera said Friday. "Because of that, we're following through with the situation, set of circumstances. We're not trying to do anything below board or way above board.''

The decision to deactivate Hardy comes after the Ravensreleased Rice and the NFL placed the running back on indefinite suspension after video appeared of him knocking out then-fiance Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator in February. It also follows the Vikings' decision to deactivate Petersonafter he was chargedwith reckless or negligent injury to a child.

The Rice tapes put the focus back on domestic violence and Hardy. It intensified on Hardy after he missed Wednesday's practice to meet with the attorney handling the case.

Then on Wednesday night, when receiving the Echo Award Against Indifference, team owner Jerry Richardson had tears as he addressed critics who called his stance on Hardy's case lenient.

"Standing before you tonight, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge an issue weighing heavily on our sport and our society,'' Richardson said. "When it comes to domestic violence, my stance is not one of indifference. I stand firmly against domestic violence, plain and simple.'"

Sources told that Patriots owner Robert Kraft contacted Richardson to lobby other NFL owners for support of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who has come under fire for his handling of Rice's case. Richardson has agreed to help Kraft.

Mario Addison, a fourth-year player out of Troy, started in place of Hardy.

The Panthers still have to pay Hardy his salary for this week. As the team's franchise tag player, he is scheduled to make $13.1 million this season.

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