Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy missed Wednesday’s practice for personal reasons, coach Ron Rivera said.
Rivera said it was an excused absence and not tied to any possible disciplinary action by the league stemming from Hardy’s ongoing criminal domestic violence case. Rivera deferred to Hardy and his legal representation when asked whether Hardy’s absence was connected to any criminal matter.
Chris Fialko, Hardy’s Charlotte-based attorney, said he had a meeting with Hardy on Wednesday. Fialko declined to divulge the details of the meeting or what the two discussed.
A district judge in July found Hardy guilty of assaulting and threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder during an early-morning altercation at Hardy’s uptown condo in May.
Hardy immediately appealed for a jury trial, which has been set for Nov. 17. Under North Carolina law, defendants convicted of misdemeanors by a judge are automatically granted a jury trial upon appeal.
A league spokesman said Tuesday Hardy’s situation remains under review. The Panthers have indicated the NFL plans to wait until Hardy’s case is resolved before imposing any disciplinary action on Hardy.
Fialko said in August he believes Hardy’s case will not be heard until next year, which would come after the conclusion of the NFL’s regular season.
Rivera was asked whether he thought the Panthers’ handling of the situation was appropriate.
“We’re going through the process,” Rivera said. “And while we’re in the process we’re not going to comment about the situation.”
Rivera said he expects Hardy to return to practice Thursday, and play in Sunday’s game against Detroit.
Hardy, who is guaranteed $13.1 million this season after the Panthers put the franchise tag on him, had a sack, a quarterback pressure and a forced fumble during the Week 1 win at Tampa Bay.
The first 10 questions Rivera faced during his press conference Wednesday pertained to Hardy or domestic violence, which has dominated NFL discussions since Monday when Baltimore released running back Ray Rice.
The league subsequently suspended Rice indefinitely after TMZ obtained a video of Rice knocking his then-fiancee unconscious in an elevator at an Atlantic City casino.
Rivera acknowledged the challenge of getting his team ready for the Lions during what has been an emotionally charged week in NFL circles.
“This is football. This is what we’re doing here, we’re trying to prepare for a football game against a very good football team. And there’s a lot of things that are going on. I get that. I understand that,” Rivera said. “But at the same time, we’re going to continue about the business.
“It’s a very tragic situation that’s going on, and we’re going from there. I have a tremendous amount of empathy and respect for people that are in this situation, very difficult. But I’m only going to talk about football from this point on.”