Earlier this week, the NFL suspended the Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice indefinitely. On Friday, the Minnesota Vikings deactivated Adrian Peterson.
On Sunday under immense pressure in a whirlwind week, the Carolina Panthers opted to deactivate Greg Hardy after a week of saying the embattled defensive end would play against the Lions.
“Teams are dealing with this and we are doing the best we can,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said after his team’s 24-7 victory. “We are not infallible. We make mistakes. The decision I made today was based on all the information I tried to get, the people that I talked with and going forward.”
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As late as Friday evening, the Panthers said they planned to play and start Hardy against the Lions. He was also at the team hotel on Saturday. But Sunday morning, after conversations with Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and general manager Dave Gettleman, Rivera changed course.
In his postgame press conference, Rivera repeated he made the decision that “was in the best interest of the Carolina Panthers,” but he didn’t expand much on those comments. Gettleman and Richardson, who made a tearful plea to the public last week to be patient as the Panthers deal with Hardy’s situation, declined comment through a team spokesman.
Hardy, who was found guilty in July of assaulting his ex-girlfriend and threatening to kill her, played last week against Tampa Bay and recorded one sack. He has appealed for a jury trial, which is scheduled for Nov. 17.
Since late July, the Panthers have said they will let the legal process play out before taking any possible action on Hardy. That changed Sunday.
“My rationale was that it was in the best interest of the Carolina Panthers,” Rivera said. “We had to do this.”
As the week went on, the Panthers sensed a change may come. Center Ryan Kalil said he knew something was up when Hardy missed Wednesday’s practice to meet with his attorney.
“The climate’s kind of changed and (we) kind of knew something was going to go down,” defensive tackle Dwan Edwards said. “We just focused on the task at hand, beating the Lions.”
Although Hardy was inactive, he was still paid for the game, a total of about $770,000. The Panthers used the franchise tag on Hardy in the offseason, signing him for one year and $13.1 million.
Rivera did not have a timetable on when Hardy would return to game action, but he indicated Hardy would play again this season. If the Panthers keep Hardy deactivated, they will still pay his salary.
Drew Rosenhaus, Hardy’s agent, declined to comment.
Hardy did not arrive to the stadium until about 11 a.m., according to camera crews from ESPN and NFL Network. He did not warm up on the field with his teammates, who said they weren’t informed of Hardy’s deactivation until Rivera told them in a pregame speech.
Hardy was not on the sideline for the game, and it’s unclear if he watched the game from the stadium or elsewhere.
Starting quarterback and team captain Cam Newton said he didn’t feel the need to address the team about Hardy’s absence because he stands behind the decisions of Rivera and the front office “110 percent.”
Last week Rivera made the difficult decision to make Newton inactive for the Tampa Bay game because of Newton’s cracked ribs. At the time, the coach called it one of the toughest coaching decisions he’s ever had to make.
“He said to me last week something that will hit home for the rest of my life,” Newton said. “Some of the decisions that you make in life may be the right decisions, but they may be the hardest decisions as well.”
Staff writer Joseph Person contributed.