In his first public comments since he was convicted two weeks ago of assaulting and threatening his ex-girlfriend, Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy repeatedly declined to comment about the domestic violence case but said he regrets being a distraction to the team.
Hardy would not say whether he has apologized to his teammates, calling it a team matter he wants to keep internal.
“I hate that I have distracted my team, but other than that I can’t really answer any questions,” Hardy said Sunday at the Panthers’ training camp at Wofford.
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Before Hardy addressed the media, a Panthers spokesman said Hardy would not discuss anything related to the case.
Six times when asked questions related to his arrest and subsequent guilty verdict, Hardy said he “can’t answer that question.”
He offered no apologies during the six-minute meeting with reporters, which was arranged by the Panthers’ public relations staff.
A Mecklenburg County district judge found Hardy guilty on two misdemeanor charges, stemming from the early morning altercation with Nicole Holder at Hardy’s uptown condo on May 13.
He appealed the decision and has a jury trial pending, which likely would not start until after the season.
The Panthers have indicated they plan to allow the league to handle Hardy’s potential discipline, which general manager Dave Gettleman believes would happen after the legal process is complete.
Hardy is due in court for his arraignment Aug. 4, when the case will be set for trial.
Former Panthers offensive tackle Jordan Gross said the team’s wait-and-see approach with Hardy is prudent.
“I think one thing the organization does very well, they don’t make rash decisions,” said Gross, the new sideline reporter for the team’s radio broadcasts. “And that sometimes comes at the cost of looking like maybe they’re not making a decision.
“But I believe the best thing to do is let everything play out, higher powers than the team, and that’s what they’re doing right now.”
Coach Ron Rivera said he believes players have handled Hardy’s situation well and added he appreciated him acknowledging the distraction he created.
Hardy, who signed a $13.1 million franchise tag two months before his arrest in May, said he wants to stay with the Panthers long term. He wouldn’t answer a question about whether he believes the events of the offseason have hurt his chances to remain with the organization after this season.
“I love this place. This is a great atmosphere,” Hardy said. “I love the ownership, love my teammates. I’ve had a great five years here.”
Even before his arrest, the Panthers showed little interest in making a long-term financial commitment to Hardy, a former sixth-round draft pick who tied a club, single-season record with 15 sacks in 2013 and made his first Pro Bowl.
With free agency again looming, Hardy was asked whether he would try prove his value this season.
“It’s an every-year thing. I don’t really go on a yearly basis,” Hardy said. “I wake up in the morning, wash my hands and get to work because that’s what we have to do – be excellent and be better than everyone else. It doesn’t change.”
Gross, who met with reporters shortly after Hardy’s media appearance, said he talked with him briefly after the Panthers’ practice Saturday night.
“I believe in second chances,” Gross said. “I’m glad I’m not in the position where I need to put blame or judge on anybody. It’s unfortunate what happened, and I can’t say that I would ever be glad to be involved in something like that myself. But we had a relationship before he got in trouble, and we’ll probably have one after.
“So I just said, good to see him and hang in there and keep working hard.”