On a day when Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was suspended for at least the rest of the season, Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Tuesday he doesn’t expect embattled defensive end Greg Hardy to play again this season, either.
Rivera was noncommittal on Hardy’s long-term future with the Panthers, although team sources have said they believe Hardy’s tenure with Carolina is over. Hardy’s future with any team remains cloudy after the NFL’s decision to sit Peterson down for the Vikings’ final six games.
Peterson was indicted in September on felony child abuse charges after he disciplined his 4-year-old son with a switch. He avoided jail time by pleading no contest to a reduced charge on Nov. 4.
Peterson and Hardy have both been on the commissioner’s exempt list since mid-September after agreeing to take paid leaves of absence.
Hardy is awaiting a jury trial on domestic violence charges that was originally scheduled to begin this week. A crowded court docket prompted the Mecklenburg County district attorney’s office to move the trial to early 2015, although a specific date has not been set.
Hardy, who will make $13.1 million this season for what likely will be one game, will become a free agent in March. But if his case is still unresolved, it will hurt his market value, according to one industry expert.
“The first thing he wants is for there to be a resolution prior to free agency starting next year,” said CBSSports.com’s Joel Corry, a former NFL agent. “That’s going to depress the market. To what degree, I don’t know.”
A district court judge in July found Hardy guilty of assaulting and threatening to kill ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder during an early morning altercation at Hardy’s uptown condo May 13. He immediately appealed for a jury trial.
Hardy played in the season opener at Tampa Bay but was inactive for a Week 2 win against Detroit as the NFL came under increasing public pressure after TMZ obtained the surveillance video of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancée.
On Sept. 17 Hardy joined Peterson on the seldom-used exempt list, agreeing to remain on it until his case was adjudicated, according to a league source. In return, Panthers and league officials agreed not to punish Hardy until his case is resolved.
Under the league’s new policy on domestic violence, established in August after commissioner Roger Goodell admitted mishandling the Rice situation, Hardy would face a six-game suspension if he’s found guilty by a jury.
In announcing it would appeal Peterson’s suspension, the NFL Players Association said an unnamed league executive told Peterson his nine weeks on the exempt list would count as time served.
A league spokesman told USA Today that Peterson’s time on the exempt list was factored in the decision. But Goodell’s letter to Peterson outlined several “aggravating circumstances” that called for a tougher punishment.
Corry said Hardy could learn from the disciplinary action taken by Goodell, who told Peterson in the letter he’d shown “no meaningful remorse for your conduct.”
Said Corry: “I think one thing Greg Hardy should do at some point, if he hasn’t already, is act very contrite publicly because that was one of the factors in the Peterson disciplinary decision.”
Hardy has not publicly expressed remorse about his role in the incident with Holder, a cocktail waitress at the Epicentre. Hardy’s only apology was made at training camp, about being a distraction to his teammates.
Holder claims Hardy threw her around his condo, at one point tossing her onto a futon covered with rifles.
In his court testimony, Hardy said Holder attacked him with the heel of her shoe. Hardy’s 911 call alerted police, although Judge Becky Thorne Tin thought Hardy’s 911 call was fabricated.
Rivera said his last contact with Hardy was about a week ago in an exchange of text messages, “just checking to see how he’s doing.”
Hardy hasn’t been at Bank of America Stadium since September.
Rivera said Hardy would be part of the “evaluation process,” but admitted his situation is different because of the sensitivity surrounding domestic violence.
“As a whole, these are societal issues. And these are things that we all have to be very mindful that we’re doing things the right way and presenting the right image, the right direction,” Rivera said. “Again, people are looking at us as far as the moral compass. We’ve got to be smart about things that we decide.”
Corry said the charges against Hardy, 26, might make him “too toxic” for a team to sign him to a lucrative, long-term deal. But he said there will be clubs interested in him, particularly ones in need of a Pro Bowl pass-rusher.
“We’re talking about a 15-sack guy. Pass rushers are paid a premium typically, and ones in the primes of their career usually don’t hit the market,” Corry said. “The only question is whether this current climate with domestic violence could have a chilling effect in terms of his market.”