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Hardy's Work Ethic, Enthusiasm Setting The Tone For Cowboys Defense

OXNARD, Calif. – Any lingering concerns about Greg Hardy's health were dispelled Friday when he began bull rushing Tyron Smith during the Cowboys' morning walkthrough.

There was a predictable uproar at practice Thursday when Hardy, the Cowboys' prized free agent pass rusher, strained his rib while going through a light practice. The Pro Bowl defensive end joked with reporters afterward that "I don't get hurt."

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett affirmed that, saying the issue was a minor one and that Hardy would be able to practice fully at the team's second full session of training camp.

Hardy has been made unavailable to reporters at training camp, as he prepares to face a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy last year. To hear it from his coaches and teammates, though, his all-out approach isn't surprising.

"Everything he does is full-speed. He practices at game speed every second," said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. "We did a solid job of that last year, getting guys playing really hard. It just keeps elevating when you have guys like that, that really want to play hard."

That's been the storyline since Hardy joined the team back in March, as his new teammates have raved about his work ethic and the effect his intensity has had on the defense. It's certainly having the desired effect on the Cowboys' younger players, as Randy Gregory has come away impressed by his new linemate in their three months together.

"In my honest opinion, probably the hardest worker, as far as the D-Linemen. He pushes all of us," Gregory said. "He's obviously had a lot of success already. You can tell he's trying to set the bar high."

That's welcome news for the Cowboys – though, they'd prefer he not set the bar too high, too soon. Garrett said Thursday that Hardy pushed himself too much when he first arrived in Dallas, fresh off a 15-game absence.

"To be honest with you, with Greg right from the start, he was actually going too hard," he said. "He was going too hard in the weight room and too hard on the field early on in the offseason."

It's a pretty understandable mindset, especially for a guy who has played in one game since the end of the 2013 season – and who must sit out the first month of this year. After his off-field concerns, perhaps the biggest question surrounding Hardy is how well he can be expected to perform for this defense after seeing such limited action in the past two years.

As training camp gets underway, it seems apparent he's out to prove exactly how reliable he can be.

"I think he wants to be a part of something special. And I think he wants to come to work every day and show his teammates what he's all about in terms of his work ethic and what he can bring to our football team," Garrett said. "I think he's shown us that right from the start and he's someone that we really believe in that can be a real contributing factor for our football team."

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