03:13 - Source: CNN
Greg Hardy returns to NFL after domestic violence case

Story highlights

Greg Hardy returns from a four-game suspension; "I hope I come out guns blazing," he says

Hardy was convicted of assaulting his ex-girlfriend in July 2014; the conviction was overturned in February

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says that most NFL players are "good family men"

CNN —  

Before the public ever saw the damning video of former NFL player Ray Rice knocking out his future wife, there was the domestic violence case of Greg Hardy.

NFL toughens domestic violence policy with six-game bans

For those catching up: Hardy hasn’t played professional football since the first week of the 2014 NFL season, back when the defensive end was a member of the Carolina Panthers. That’s because Hardy, who in July 2014 was found guilty of assaulting his ex-girlfriend and threatening to kill her, was benched by the Panthers and later placed on the NFL’s Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List. Hardy appealed his conviction and asked for a jury trial. He continued to collect paychecks as he sat away from the public eye. His conviction was overturned in February when the woman didn’t cooperate with the district attorney’s office.

Bleacher Report: Hardy proves he hasn’t learned a thing

Now, after a four-game suspension, Hardy is back, this time with the Dallas Cowboys. He is eligible to play this week against the New England Patriots. But instead of taking the tactic of Rice, who apologized multiple times for his act of domestic violence, Hardy was downright flippant in the locker room this week, calling his time away “the most awesome period of my life.”

“I hope I come out guns blazing,” the man who was once accused of throwing a woman onto a couch full of assault rifles and bragging that they were loaded said Tuesday. “I’m full of excitement and full of juice. I’m ready to go.”

Hardy also cracked jokes and talked about Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, according to the The Dallas Morning News.

“I love seeing Tom Brady, he’s cool as crap,” Hardy said. “Have you seen his wife? I hope she comes to the game. I hope her sister comes to the game, all her friends come to the game. One of my favorite games of the year, guys.”

A reporter told Hardy that the wife of Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles is also attractive.

“Is she?” Hardy asked. “This kind of information is important. That’s how I select my Pro Bowls.”

Pretty glib for a man who has missed the last 19 regular-season games and two postseason games.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York on Wednesday for the NFL owners meeting, was asked by Sports Illustrated about Hardy’s comments. He said he was unaware of what Hardy said, but when he was told about Hardy’s comments about Bundchen, he responded, “When I saw him marry her, Tom went up in my eyes 100%. She’s very very attractive, and it shows what an outstanding individual Tom is.”

On Thursday, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett told the media that he has spoken to Hardy about his controversial comments.

“We addressed it immediately,” Garrett said. “That’s not how we want to operate as an organization. The player and coaches in our organization understand that, and we want to distinguish ourselves with our play, not with what we say. We define ourselves by what we do, not by what we say. I think Greg understands that now and that’s how we want to proceed going forward.”

After the NFL owners meeting in New York on Wednesday, CNN’s Rachel Nichols asked NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during his news conference about Hardy:

“I just wanted to follow up on Greg Hardy. He’s returning from a suspension that involved domestic violence, and when, kind of given the opportunity to be contrite yesterday, instead he came out and said he likes playing the Patriots because Tom Brady’s wife is hot. He hopes he brings her friends to the game. He said he selects other players for the Pro Bowl based on how hot their wives are. What do you think about a representative of the NFL talking about women that way, especially coming back from a suspension that he is coming back from? And have you informally reached out to him or the Cowboys to talk about it?”

Goodell ducked answering the question directly, saying that he was not aware of Hardy’s comments, but that most NFL players are “good family men.”

“There’s a very, very, very small percentage of men who don’t follow the policies, and when they don’t, they have to be held accountable,” Goodell said. “And we’ll do everything I can to prevent that – to intervene and to try to make sure that we get them to follow our policies and see the way the NFL does things, the standards that we hope to hold – and we won’t compromise on that.”

Hardy signed a one-year contract with the Cowboys in March. In April, the NFL suspended him for 10 games for violating the Personal Conduct Policy. However, Hardy appealed, and the suspension was reduced to four games by arbitrator Harold Henderson.

When the NFL had originally announced Hardy’s suspension (before it was reduced), it said that the league’s investigation concluded that Hardy violated the Personal Conduct Policy by using physical force against the woman in at least four instances: First, he caused her to land in a bathtub. Second, he caused her to land on a futon that was covered with at least four semiautomatic rifles. Third, he placed his hands around her neck and applied enough pressure to leave marks. And fourth, he shoved her against a wall in his apartment’s entry hallway.

“The net effect of these acts was that (the woman) was severely traumatized and sustained a range of injuries, including bruises and scratches on her neck, shoulders, upper chest, back, arms and feet,” Goodell wrote in a letter to Hardy. “The use of physical force under the circumstances present here, against a woman substantially smaller than you and in the presence of powerful, military-style assault weapons, constitutes a significant act of violence in violation of the Personal Conduct Policy.”

But instead of reflecting over the past or showing remorse Tuesday, Hardy’s only apology was for not being there for teammates. When asked if the last year was difficult for him, he stuck to football.

“It’s hard to get sacks when you’re not on the football field,” he said. “That’s my main purpose. Football is to get back there and get a sack and make a difference for the team, and I wasn’t able to do that.”