With each passing week, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' October comments on defensive end Greg Hardy being "one of the real leaders on this team" look more and more deluded.
In advance of the Cowboys' 10-6 road loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Hardy was reportedly late to work on Thursday, missing almost all of the team's morning meetings. This follows an October report of Hardy going MIA before another Thursday practice, which led to a manhunt of sorts for Cowboys officials.
Last week's episode begs the question: What's Hardy doing on Wednesdays that's preventing him from doing his job on Thursday mornings? Is he oversleeping? Does he think that, as the lone defensive "star" on a bad team, he's immune to the same standards of practice as the rest of his teammates? In every other workplace in the United States, good managers and bosses -- the leaders of an organization -- actually show up to their job when they're supposed to.
Cowboys Executive Vice President Stephen Jones refused to address the latest Fox Sports report on Hardy's workplace fluidity during an appearance on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Monday. But if accurate, his recent tardiness continues a trend: If Hardy isn't sacking quarterbacks, he's poisoning the rest of the 2-7 Cowboys, who are 0-5 since Hardy returned from his domestic violence suspension and currently mired in a seven-game losing streak.
After missing preparation time on Thursday, Hardy's woes continued into Sunday's game against the Buccaneers. At one point, Hardy, thinking that he possesses inspirational ethos, tried to pump up the crowd. They threw it back in his face:
From there, Hardy got caught up with defensive line teammate Demarcus Lawrence. The two were separated on the sideline after going nose to nose at each other -- not exactly an isolated incident for Hardy. His face-time with Lawrence recalls his late October bust-up with special teams coach Rich Bisaccia during a game against the New York Giants.
Shortly after his confrontation with Bisaccia, an inflamed Hardy tried to pump up his teammates and help lead a late comeback against the Giants, but instead, quizzical, almost self-defeating looks were returned his way:
Throughout this season, in the actual locker room, Hardy has done the opposite of what a professional football player should do. After his sideline fight with Bisaccia, Hardy responded to every postgame locker room question with a "no comment" before ending the interview session on his own. Standing at his locker in early October, Hardy refused to apologize for or even acknowledge his history of domestic violence.
A month later, with his back against the wall following a damning Deadspin investigation into Hardy's alleged beating of ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder, he tweeted a half-hearted message of "regret for what happened in the past." Days later, Hardy obliterated any free-standing belief of his remorse by changing his Twitter bio to this:
Here, we have a man who's failed to express even a modicum of self-awareness, and more broadly, gratitude for his continued, albeit bewildering employment as an NFL athlete. Hardy's a terrible example for the Cowboys' young players and for aspiring pros in general, and NFL players around the league are speaking out about it, too.
Philadelphia Eagles offensive linemen Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson ripped into Hardy after the team's November win in Dallas. Kelce, having seen photos of Holder's beaten body, questioned why Hardy was allowed to play in the game. Johnson added, "Anytime I got a chance to put a little extra mustard on a block [on Hardy], I tried." Although Kelce and Johnson represent NFC East rivals to Hardy and the Cowboys, they're still humans with a sense of morality. Presumably, people like that exist within the Cowboys locker room, too. After everything we've seen, heard and learned from Hardy, how can any NFL player, including his own teammates (who have had their own, separate issues within the Cowboys locker room), think of him as a "real leader"?
A real leader accepts blame, learns from and owns up to his mistakes. A real leader shows up to work. A real leader keeps his Twitter page out of Page Six. A real leader inspires teammates, fans and his peers, especially during losing times.
Hardy may lead the Cowboys in sacks (4), but when it comes to demonstrating real leadership on the NFC East's last place team, the five-year veteran has acted as directionless and foolish as possible. Among non-idiots, it’s already well known that Hardy is no sort of leader in his community or outside the locker room. We need to start admitting he isn’t one inside the locker room either.
A real leader, Hardy is not.
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