Tom Sorensen

Former Panthers DE Greg Hardy’s hard head eclipses his immense talent

When defensive end Greg Hardy ceased to be a star, the Dallas Cowboys – and the rest of the NFL – ceased to be willing to put up with him.
When defensive end Greg Hardy ceased to be a star, the Dallas Cowboys – and the rest of the NFL – ceased to be willing to put up with him. Getty Images

An NFL executive once told me that Greg Hardy, the former Carolina Panthers defensive end, was a better player than Ndamukong Suh, the Miami Dolphins’ defensive tackle. Yet there are several differences between them, the foremost of which is that Suh has a job.

After a quick start with the Dallas Cowboys last season, Hardy stopped being special. But he continued to say the dumb things for which he is known. You can get away with saying them when you’re a star. By the end of the season he had ceased to be a star.

The Cowboys let him go and, when the 2016 season began, nobody had picked him up. The Panthers could use a pass-rushing defensive end, especially a pass-rushing defense end who had made the 2013 Pro Bowl for them. There’s no chance they look to Hardy, especially after NFL insiders got a look at the pictures responsible for Hardy’s domestic violence charge in Charlotte and subsequent NFL suspension.

Hardy was caught Sunday during a traffic stop in Richardson, Texas, an affluent suburb of Dallas. He was charged with possession of a controlled substance. In is wallet was a plastic bag containing less than a gram of cocaine, USA Today reports. Hardy said somebody put the plastic bag in his wallet.

Hardy is among the most imposing and impressive defensive players the Panthers have ever had. He is 6-5, 280, lean and remarkably athletic. To stand next to him, or pass him in a Bank of America Stadium hallway, was to try to imagine circumstances under which a human being could block him.

At some point, the absence of character becomes more important than the ability to undo a quarterback. Hardy has reached that point. After an act of contrition, something Hardy does not like to feign, he might get another NFL job. But it won’t be in Charlotte, and it shouldn’t be.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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