Fresh off a four-game suspension for his domestic violence offense, Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy is set to play in an NFL game this Sunday -- his first since Week 1 of the 2014 season.
When Hardy straps on his pads against the New England Patriots on Sunday, 516 days will have passed since he assaulted his ex-girlfriend and threatened to kill her while choking her out on a couch full of assault weapons. And 453 days will have come and gone since a North Carolina judge found Hardy guilty of it all. Yes, all of it.
To this day, Hardy has not spent a single moment publicly apologizing for committing such a heinous act of violence against a woman. (After sentencing, Hardy appealed his case to get a jury trial, but ended up trading his victim's silence for a settlement. Charges were later dismissed.) There's been no mea culpa, or even the slightest acknowledgement of what happened on May 13, 2014.
Instead, speaking to reporters on Tuesday for the first time since the Cowboys signed him in March after the Carolina Panthers cut him, Hardy said he was ready to "come out guns blazin'," completely unaware of how his past indiscretions shape how he's viewed now. Hardy is obviously ready to move forward with his life, but how can he possibly be deemed fit to progress when he's never even hinted at remorse?
"I don't look back, other than to know that I need to get forward, I need to get to progress and I need to get to sacks," he told reporters with troubling singularity. In Hardy's mind, the best way to make his past instantly forgettable is by making big plays. And in a way, he's not wrong either. If he sacks Tom Brady on Sunday and Jerry Jones claps from his suite in the sky and Cowboys fans cheer him on, that support is the only elixir he needs to block out his crimes. Such is the state of the NFL.
Unlike Ray Rice, who's been effectively blackballed from the NFL since video leaked in September 2014 of him knocking out his then-fiancée, now wife in a casino elevator, Hardy's been able to hold an NFL job with two different teams since May 13. While Rice's August 2015 apology tour did nothing to persuade teams to sign him, Hardy's complete silence, and now, indignation, has only helped his cause. Since being initially sidelined by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in September 2014, Hardy has collected over $14 million in NFL checks and has a new contract with the Cowboys.
The Cowboys' March signing of Hardy wasn't without criticism though. Dallas sportscaster Dale Hansen infamously panned his local team for the move, which, by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' own admission, was made because of the team's defensive weaknesses.
Jones defended the signing at the time, claiming that after doing a background check and meeting with Hardy, he was convinced that "Greg has a firm understanding of [domestic violence] issues, as well."
It's now evident that Jones was totally wrong. Given his recent comments, it seems as if Hardy has little to no understanding of domestic violence issues and hasn't learned anything from his experience. In their Tuesday questions, reporters gave Hardy multiple chances to seize the moment, own his evils and deliver a genuine apology.
When asked what he's learned about himself recently, he said, "I'm a really good pass-rusher when I put my mind to it. I had a good offseason and a good camp."
When asked if he had any regrets, he said, "I'm sorry I couldn't be here for my teammates."
When asked if he had a message for people who don't believe he should have a second chance in the NFL, he said, "God bless you. That's the message."
Here, we have a coward hiding behind football and faith who hasn't been shamed or educated into showing a real behavior change. Although the threat of a lifetime ban from the NFL now hangs over his head, both Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett and Jones refuse to condemn their star pass rusher for his inaction.
Garrett, in particular, continues to be toothless on the topic. On Wednesday, he gave a shocking non-response to Hardy's comments, saying, "Probably like everybody, we're all a work in progress, so we're trying to be the right kind of guy each and every day of our lives."
Jones went to bewildering lengths in his tone-deaf reaction to Hardy's "guns blazin'" comment, telling Sports Illustrated, “Well, you’re not allowed to have guns on the football field. We all know that’s just a way of expressing yourself. I hope his guns are a-blazin’."
These men and their light-hearted musings related to a violent attack against a woman are actually running the Cowboys. And that, is very, very dangerous.
Hardy is lucky to have received and taken a second chance at life in the NFL. If he finds a second chance to apologize, he should, but given his inability to talk about what he did on May 13, 2014 nearly a year and a half later, it'll take choice behavior -- not words -- to convince anyone that he's understanding of domestic violence.
Just over a year after the NFL announced a new domestic violence policy, it's clear that some men around the league just don't get it.
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