IRVING, Texas – It was a matter-of-fact response from Greg Hardy, and it didn't call for elaboration on how his defense might slow down Eli Manning this weekend.
"Hit him in the mouth," he said.
It's a jarring quote, and it's one Hardy clarified a bit in the greater context of football. But his assessment of how to disrupt a quarterback with 1,606 passing yards and 11 touchdowns was fairly simplistic.
"The best thing for any team is to make the quarterback feel pain," he said. "We'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 good quarterback like Eli Manning looking down the field – ever."
The Philadelphia Eagles proved Hardy's point on Monday night in their 27-7 win against Manning. Philly sacked the Giants quarterback three times on the night and limited him to 189 passing yards, and they also pressured him into throwing two interceptions.
The Cowboys sacked Manning once in their 27-26 win against the Giants back in Sept. 13, but they didn't have Hardy during that contest. After a two-sack performance in his season debut against New England, there's all kinds of speculation about how Hardy can follow it up against the Giants.
A recurring theme of his Wednesday press conference, however, seemed to be that talk is cheap – including sack prognostications.
"I feel like numbers is just numbers, man. You can say 15 or a million, it's all about what you're going to get out there and do and work," he said. "If they're going to give me a million, I'm going to take a million if it's on the table."
That seems to go for the Dallas defense as a whole. The popular storyline the past week has been that the Dallas defense is as close to full strength as it has been since training camp. Hardy and Rolando McClain are back from their four-game suspensions, and rookie sensation Randy Gregory is expected to return from the ankle sprain he suffered Week 1.
The concept of "full-strength" didn't appear to interest Hardy, however.[embeddedad0]
"Full-strength is in the eye of the beholder – I think I said that right. It's how you see it," he said. "You can only play with four guys. You can't have nine guys out there on the D-Line, so hopefully you get a combination of guys – like we did last week – that come out there and rush, period, no matter who is out there."
It worked well the last time out. Led by Hardy's performance, the Cowboys sacked Tom Brady five times in their 30-6 loss to New England on Oct. 11. It was one of the few bright spots of an otherwise dismal day. Hardy also gave it a rating of "F," because it wasn't a win.
That might help explain his blunt attitude this time around, not to mention his singular focus – regardless of who actually lines up on Sunday.
"There are no special players, there is no special answer, there is no special formula," he said. "We work harder than everybody else, and when we don't, we lose. That's what we're here to do – work. Play football and work."