Defensive end Greg Hardy is through talking about other players’ wives and worrying about being tone deaf when using cliches.
His focus is on team and doing whatever he can to help the Dallas Cowboys (2-3) win and break out of their three-game losing streak Sunday against the New York Giants (3-3).
He has a painful plan in store for New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
What it doesn’t entail is him being painted as a hero or special player in the process.
“Let me explain something to you guys, man,” Hardy said. “The defense is changing. It’s 11 guys, we play for each other, with each other. There are no special players. There’s no special answer. There’s no special formula. We work harder than anybody else and when we don’t, we lose.
“And that’s what we’re here to do. Work. Play football and work. Eleven guys, rushing, covering and working together. Period. Hands down. Any more questions?”
That was Hardy’s lecture to the media roughly two weeks after being skewered nationally for comments he made about New England quarterback Tom Brady’s wife and a reference to guns in his first interview in more than a year.
Considering he missed the first four games of season on NFL suspension and had not played since the first week of the 2014 season due to a domestic violence incident involving guns when he was with Carolina, the comments were considered in poor taste.
That was before he had two sacks and five quarterback hits against Brady and the Patriots in a 30-6 Cowboys loss Oct. 10, reminding the world he was a special force and raising hopes that he could lift the Cowboys with his dominant play.
Hardy said the main thing he remembers is that the Cowboys lost. He has no interest in stats and personal success if the team doesn’t win, invoking the name of Hall of Famer and former Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy.
“Do you know the guy who won defensive player of the year on a team that had just two wins?” Hardy queried as he walked off. “Look him up.”
That was in 1992. The Seahawks finished 2-14. But Kennedy had 14 sacks and was named defensive player of the year in media balloting by The Associated Press.
As for Hardy, he doesn’t deny that “sacks are always coming. Period.”
He also knows the Giants will likely focus on stopping him, not just because his performance against the Patriots but because that’s been the standard throughout his career. The Giants also have a substandard offensive line with overmatched rookie Ereck Flowers at left tackle.
“He’s a giant guy, replacement from the last guy, coming in, fresh face, fresh feet, fresh skills is always a good thing,” Hardy said. “Like every day in my career, they’re going to throw the house.”
The Giants gave up three sacks in a Monday night loss to a Philadelphia defense that had struggled to rush the passer all season. The Eagles entered the game last in the league, getting to the quarterback on 19 percent of their plays. But they harassed Manning all night in a 27-7 victory.
Will Hardy be licking his chops for Sunday’s game?
“I don’t lick my chops for anything but food, man,” Hardy said. “This is work. We don’t play around with work. I dance, but I’m not that playful about it.”
Hardy has a plan on how to disrupt Manning.
“Hit him in the mouth,” Hardy said. “The best thing for any team is to make the quarterback feel pain. You’ve got to be respectful of the rules of the game and honestly you don’t want to hurt anybody, but to make him feel you is to bring his eyes down. You don’t want a quarterback like Eli Manning looking down the field, ever. Ever, ever, ever.”
The Cowboys are at full strength on defense for the first time all season. Rookie defensive end Randy Gregory will return after missing the past four games with a high ankle sprain. The team’s two best pass rushers will be on the field for the first time.
“If I come out a little rusty, that’s kind of expected in some ways,” Gregory said, “but I definitely fully expect to come out there and pick up where I left off.”
Gregory had three pressures in 19 snaps before getting hurt in the season opener against the Giants. Despite being out, he led the team in that category through the first four games of the season — that is, until Hardy played in Week 5 against the Patriots.
“Key guys don’t matter. We’ve got 11. Cowboys defense,” Hardy said. “Full strength is in the eye of the beholder, I think I said that right if that’s a saying. It’s how you see it.”
Any more questions?
Cowboys at Giants
3:25 p.m. Sunday, KDFW/4