For as much praise as teammates and coaches give Greg Hardy for his relentless motor in practice, the defensive lineman hasn’t delivered the “wow” plays yet.
The best thing Hardy has done to date, it seems, is getting as far away from the fights that broke out between the Cowboys and Rams on Tuesday. Outside of that, his impact on the field hasn’t been seen to the naked eye.
But there is an explanation for that, more than Hardy simply missing almost an entire season after being placed on the exempt list because of a domestic violence incident in May 2014.
Hardy, according to those within the organization, uses practice to work on his weaknesses and become a better all-around player, rather than only working on his strengths.
Look no further than Tuesday’s practice against the St. Louis Rams. Hardy beat Rams undrafted rookie tackle Darrell Williams for a sack on one play, and then was getting pancake-blocked by him on the next.
Hardy continues to work himself back into shape, hoping to lose about 10 more pounds.
“Getting a year off like that, he is still getting back into his rhythm and all those things, but he’s had some flash plays,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. “And he brings it every day. He practices hard every day, every down. He’s got a lot of pride. We’ve been extremely pleased so far.”
Everybody within the organization appears to be pleased with Hardy, and the Cowboys faithful at training camp have embraced him by cheering him on.
Still, it remains a highly controversial signing and Hardy is still set to serve a four-game suspension to start the season after the NFL said he violated the personal conduct policy. The initial suspension of 10 games was reduced to four last month.
There remains a possibility that Hardy could try to get the suspension reduced further, or completely eliminated, if he takes it to federal court.
The NFL players’ association and his representatives have yet to make that decision, and they could be waiting to see if the NFL is held in contempt of court for their handling of the Adrian Peterson case from last season.
Until that decision is made, or Hardy serves his suspension, the Cowboys have not made Hardy available for comment.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has stayed out of that decision, but Hardy’s teammates would be supportive of taking it to court.
“I hope he does,” veteran defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. “I would love for Greg to get back as soon as possible. It makes our team better. The earlier he gets back, the better off we’ll be.”
As far as accepting Hardy and his past issues into the locker room, Mincey said it hasn’t been a problem. Mincey and Hardy have lockers next to each other, and immediately got along.
“It was easy. Hardy’s become a good friend of mine,” Mincey said. “I just give him some nuggets on life. Sometimes you just have to take the good with the bad. Keep grinding, man. It’ll all work out.”
The rest of the defensive line has similar thoughts when it comes to Hardy, who has spent time at both end and tackle. Sure, everyone knows his past, but they have come to respect him as a player and understand the kind of boost he can give to a defense that made only 28 sacks a season ago.
Hardy made headlines this off-season for getting into a verbal spat with Davon Coleman, but Coleman shakes his head at the incident.
“I don’t even know how it blew up like that,” Coleman said. “...That’s my bro. We were tight right after that. It really was nothing, just being teammates.
“Greg definitely has brought a juice of energy to our group.”
That energy on the field has been a positive for young players, too.
Hardy is often seen talking with rookie defensive end Randy Gregory on the sideline during team drills, and working with him during the individual portion of practice.
“The biggest thing he’s taught me up to this point is how to practice like a pro,” Gregory said.
Then, unprompted, Gregory alluded to the off-field cloud that hangs over Hardy. Gregory has his own off-field issues that made him fall from being a possible top-10 pick to the Cowboys in the second round at 60th overall.
“I hate to bring bad things into the conversation, but a lot of people bring his off-field issues onto the field, but anyone who sees him on the field will realize that he’s a pro,” Gregory said. “He’s an All-Pro. He’s a Pro Bowl-type of guy. His motor is the first thing I noticed. He’s always finishing a drill like he’s getting to the quarterback.”
In the end, getting to quarterbacks and disrupting offenses is what the Cowboys want to see from Hardy. On the field, that is, while creating no off-field headlines.
So far, so good on both fronts in camp.
Drew Davison 817-390-7760