Mac Engel

Cowboys’ Hardy should learn that playing pro sports is a privilege

One look at former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, in the NFL’s other high-profile domestic violence case last year, and Greg Hardy should thank God every day he’s in the league and making millions of dollars.

Ray Rice can’t find a job, in part because he’s a running back who is 28. And there is videotape of his incident. Rice at least “gets it.” In a recent interview with ESPN that was essentially a job interview, Rice said, “It truly is a privilege to play in the NFL. It’s a privilege to play professional sports.”

At first glance, Hardy, the Cowboys’ high-profile domestic-assault addition this off-season, has a body that defies genetics, and looks like a higher power made it to play defensive end. As to the rest, and whether he “gets it,” who knows?

You are probably familiar with Hardy’s domestic assault charge that was dropped because he “came to an agreement” with the ex-girlfriend. Whatever you think of the decision to sign Hardy, which I don’t like, he is not going anywhere for at least a year.

One of the strengths of the Cowboys in 2014 was a tight locker room. Adding a guy like Hardy will test that. If he has the sense to think the way Ray Rice talks, nothing will happen.

The Carolina Panthers wanted no part of a Pro Bowl defensive end whose sack totals are in the same area as the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt, so they dumped a productive player in the prime of his career for nothing.

They did it because they did not like him. The Cowboys should be OK to deal with a personality like this; what no team can have is too many of these players. One is enough, and this team already has Rolando McClain and Randy Gregory, both of whom have “character” concerns. They are pushing the limit.

So far, the Cowboys are saying all the right things about Hardy’s ability, tenacity, hard work, professionalism, blah blah blah. It’s all noise until he plays, and nothing off the field happens.

Defensive line assistant coach Leon Lett said that on Hardy’s first day, he stood up to address the defense. Lett also admits he does not exactly know what the effects of the off-the-field issues, combined with the layoff, will have on Hardy. He has not played since Sept. 7 of last year.

When Lett was a player, he missed an entire season because he failed a drug test in the mid-’90s.

“Being out a year is hard. It takes a while to get it back,” he said. “But being out, I missed it. It makes you want it more because you miss it. I wanted it.”

Hardy won his arbitration case against the NFL to have his 10-game suspension, stemming from the domestic violence charge, reduced to four. He should keep suing to have that suspension reduced further; he would win.

The NFLPA would certainly like to sue the NFL all day. Hardy’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has not indicated if they will pursue another appeal.

There is no reason not to, other than Hardy and his “people” might feel it’s best to be happy with a four-game suspension. While this process is still up in the air, Hardy is not talking to the media, which is a good idea. Don’t say anything until that decision has been made, and then spew the same clichés about “Being grateful for this opportunity,” “Just looking forward” and “Getting better every day.”

Both parties might be at a point where they simply prefer to distance themselves from a case that included horrific details of Hardy allegedly brutally assaulting his ex-girlfriend. To appeal it would mean to bring it up again and again.

Every day that passes is another day removed from “that incident.” A charge like that will never fully leave Hardy, but from a PR standpoint the best he can do is simply hope the calendar continues to silently flip, and nothing happens.

How much of an effect that incident had on him we won’t known for a while. Sometimes guys who go through high-profile incidents lose their edge. Sometimes they’re the same. He is only 27.

Just assume that all of the Cowboys’ talk about being proactive about domestic-violence awareness and Hardy actually doing anything about it are gone. It was never going to happen anyway.

He did it the American way — he bought his way out of trouble.

You might not like that he’s here, but he is and the best thing that can happen is absolutely nothing else and understand what Ray Rice has learned the hard way — playing in the NFL should be a privilege.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @macengelprof and The Big Mac Blog