Count Cam Newton as someone who will vouch for controversial defensive end Greg Hardy on the football field.
Newton and Hardy were teammates for four seasons with the Panthers (2011-14), and Newton had nothing but positive things to say about Hardy during a conference call with Cowboys reporters on Tuesday.
“Greg is a great teammate contrary to popular belief,” Newton said. “He’s a person who came in and worked hard, gave everybody everything that he had. … A person that you loved to watch on Sundays. Anytime you’ve got a person like that he’s always great to watch, and I’m wishing him the best.”
Hardy emerged as one of the league’s best pass rushers with the Panthers. He had 11 sacks in 2012, and then had a 15-sack campaign in 2013 in earning Pro Bowl honors.
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Hardy’s career, though, was derailed when he was involved in a May 2014 domestic violence incident. He played in only the season opener last year before being placed on the commissioner’s exempt list, essentially being suspended with pay.
The Panthers eventually cut ties with Hardy, who signed an one-year, incentive-laden contract with the Cowboys last offseason. The NFL then issued him a 10-game suspension that was later reduced to four games on appeal.
Hardy opted not to fight that suspension in court, accepting it and rejoining the Cowboys in Week 5. He has made his presence felt, too, and has a team-leading 4.5 sacks in six games.
He ranks as one of the focal points for the Panthers going into the Thanksgiving Day game.
“I’ve got my hands full trying to stop Greg Hardy and the gang,” Newton said. “Greg is obviously an added key. In addition, they have a really athletic linebacker corps with Sean Lee and Rolando McClain and those guys, and have an athletic back end. … We can’t let those guys dictate the tempo that we play at.”