The Carolina Panthers said Thursday they were disappointed in the actions of Greg Hardy, but indicated they will not discipline their Pro Bowl defensive end until the conclusion of his jury trial on domestic violence charges.
A Mecklenburg County district judge last week convicted Hardy of assaulting and threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend during an early-morning altercation at Hardy’s uptown condo on May 13.
Hardy appealed the decision, sending the case to a jury trial that likely will not start until after the upcoming season. By that point, it’s possible Hardy will have played his last game with the Panthers.
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In the meantime, Hardy will continue to practice and play for the team.
“Obviously, what’s happened with Greg is very concerning and very disappointing. These are very serious allegations,” Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said. “At the same time, we also respect the fact that Greg has appealed the decision and is entitled to a jury trial.
“We have been in touch with the league and we’re in the position that they have a personal conduct policy, which we are a part of. At the same time, we have to respect the legal process.”
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Hardy’s case is still under review, although Gettleman said it appears the league will let the legal process play out before acting on Hardy.
Approached by the Observer on Thursday at Bank of America Stadium, Hardy declined comment and said he would conduct an interview this weekend.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera and several players said they do not expect Hardy’s situation to be a distraction for the team, which is attempting to post back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in the franchise’s 20-year history.
Asked about going through the season with Hardy’s trial pending, Gettleman said: “Obviously, everybody has to deal with this and it’s not an easy situation. But it’s in the courts and we have to respect that process.”
Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, the Panthers could suspend Hardy for up to four games for conduct detrimental to the team. But Gettleman indicated the Panthers will wait for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to decide any punishment for Hardy.
Thursday, Goodell suspended Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for two games and fined him an additional game check in another high-profile domestic violence case.
Rice was arrested in February after an altercation in which Rice allegedly struck his then-fiancee in Atlantic City. A video showed Rice dragging her, unconscious, out of an elevator.
Rice’s charges were resolved in May when he avoided prosecution by entering a pretrial intervention program. Rice, whose suspension begins Aug. 30, will be back for the Ravens’ game against Carolina in Week 4.
Hardy is due in court Aug. 4 for his arraignment, where the case will be set for trial.
In announcing her verdict last week, District Judge Becky Thorne Tin said the evidence convinced her beyond reasonable doubt that Hardy beat Nicole Holder, threw her around his condo, then attempted to cover up his actions with a fabricated 911 call.
Holder told the judge she sustained bruises to her back when Hardy threw her on to a futon covered with several guns. Hardy turned over 10 guns, including at least six military-type, semi-automatic rifles, as part of a court order after his arrest.
During his testimony, Hardy said Holder swung at him, threatened to kill herself, and was injured when she threw herself into the bathtub.
Hardy’s teammates said they would not allow Hardy’s situation to become a distraction as they prepared for Friday’s first preseason practice.
“It’s something he’s going through, and something that the team and him and his group will handle. That’s really the end of it as far as the players are concerned,” tight end Greg Olsen said, who saw Hardy at the stadium Thursday.
“He seems excited to be here. I’m sure he’s ready to move into the season,” Olsen added. “And as teammates, that’s the nature of the game. It’s completely separate from anything we’re doing here. And that’s the approach everybody takes.”
The Panthers placed the franchise tag on Hardy in the spring, which guarantees him a $13.1 million salary for this season. He is set to become a free agent again after the season, and Gettleman would not address Hardy’s long-term status with the team.
First-year safety Roman Harper, who was involved, but not disciplined in the bounty scandal in New Orleans, said NFL players generally close ranks to stay unified amid controversy.
“At the end of the day, it’s what goes on inside this locker room, inside the team meeting room. ... It’s all about what you keep internally,” Harper said. “As long as we continue to bleed together, stay together, they can never break the chain of brotherhood. And that’s what it’s about.”
An official with Safe Alliance, a victims advocacy group based in Charlotte, said the nonprofit organization asks companies to hold their employees accountable when they’ve been charged or convicted of domestic violence.
“Any employer has the opportunity to make a real impact on domestic violence and making the community safer by sending a clear message that domestic violence won’t be tolerated,” said Karen Parker, chief advancement officer for Safe Alliance.
Parker didn’t want to speak specifically about Hardy’s case because she was not familiar with all the facts.
Safe Alliance partnered with the Panthers to raise money and awareness for domestic violence at a men’s breakfast at Bank of America Stadium on May 14, the day Hardy appeared in court for a bond hearing on the misdemeanor charges.