Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy will practice this week, but the team has not made a decision on his status for Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh or for the rest of the season.
Coach Ron Rivera said the team has no plans to cut Hardy, a Pro Bowler who is awaiting a jury trial on charges he assaulted and threatened to kill his ex-girlfriend during a May 13 altercation at Hardy’s condo.
Rivera said general manager Dave Gettleman is doing “due diligence” on Hardy’s situation, and Rivera indicated the team’s front office has been in consultation with the league office.
“We’re going to have to look at things and look at what’s going on,” Rivera said. “We’re going to have to get a feel for some things, and, as I said, Dave and the guys upstairs are going to do their due diligence in terms of looking at what our options are.”
Hardy’s $13.1 million salary is guaranteed this season after he received the franchise tag during the offseason. He earned $770,000 even though he was deactivated for Sunday’s win against Detroit.
Rivera pointed out Hardy isn’t suspended, and the decision this week will be whether to deactivate him again or allow him to play in Sunday night’s nationally televised game against the Steelers.
Teams can deactivate players a maximum of four games under the club discipline section of the collective-bargaining agreement.
Hardy played in the Week 1 win at Tampa Bay, collecting a sack and three tackles. Two days before the Detroit game, Rivera said Hardy would start against the Lions.
But the team changed course after a week that started with the TMZ video of former Baltimore running back Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancée and ended with the arrest of Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson on child-abuse charges. The Vikings forced the Panthers’ hand when they announced Friday that Peterson would be deactivated for their game against New England.
The Vikings reinstated Peterson on Monday, and he is expected to play this weekend against New Orleans.
Rivera said the decision to deactivate Hardy was not based on any new information, but suggested the “climate” around the league changed after Rice’s release and indefinite suspension and Peterson’s arrest.
“We’re in a situation where we’re going to go through this week and evaluate it, the circumstances and situation. In light of a lot of things that have happened, we’re going to continue to gather information,” Rivera said. “This is a very fluid situation, and we’ll see what happens.”
Rivera said Hardy understood the decision to deactivate him Sunday, and Rivera gave the defensive end permission to leave Bank of America Stadium for the game.
Hardy arrived at the stadium Monday about five minutes before the start of a scheduled team meeting. He walked past a group of reporters without responding to any questions.
Rivera said he’s concerned about Hardy’s situation becoming a distraction the longer it drags out, but he was noncommittal when asked how quickly he thought it would be resolved.
The NFL Network broadcast Rivera’s news conference live Monday, and USA Today had a reporter covering it.
“Without a doubt I am concerned about it because it becomes a distraction, and that’s part of the reason why I made this decision,” Rivera said. “Because if you play him and you win, then it’s you don’t have a conscience. If you play him and you lose, he’s a distraction. So the decision was made in the best interest of this organization.”
Ryan Kalil, the Panthers’ Pro Bowl center, said he’s tired of answering questions about Hardy, but he believes players have done a good job maintaining their focus.
“What we have to do is go about our business and get ready to play a tough Pittsburgh Steelers opponent. And that’s really all you can do,” Kalil said. “We don’t have to make those decisions, and I’m glad we don’t have to make those decisions. I don’t envy those hard decisions.
“It’s a tough deal; it’s a tough thing (Rivera) has to go through. Last week was a tough decision having to sit Cam (Newton). Those are not easy decisions to make.”
Mecklenburg County district judge Becky Thorne Tin in July found Hardy guilty of assaulting and threatening to kill Nicole Holder, a cocktail waitress who told authorities Hardy was upset about her brief relationship with rapper Nelly.
Hardy appealed the decision and has a jury trial set for Nov. 17. The Panthers have nine games remaining before Hardy’s court date, which falls on the Monday during their bye week.
The Panthers for two months said they would allow the league to handle any discipline of Hardy after the legal process played out. Rivera said Monday he was uncertain whether that was the right approach.
“I don’t know. What is right? We do the best we can,” Rivera said. “Hey, nobody’s infallible. We all make mistakes. We all correct those mistakes and try to go forward.”