IRVING, Texas – The NFL announced its disciplinary action for Greg Hardy on Wednesday afternoon, suspending the newly-signed Cowboys defensive end for the first 10 games of the 2015 season.
In a release from the NFL, the league said Hardy would be suspended without pay for the 10-game stretch “for conduct detrimental to the league in violation of the NFL Constitution and By-Laws, the NFL Player Contract, and the NFL Personal Conduct Policy.”
Hardy’s suspension goes into effect on Sept. 5, when NFL teams must cut their rosters to 53. He will be allowed to participate in all preseason activities, including the offseason program, Organized Team Activities, training camp and all four preseason games.
Hardy may also appeal the ruling within three days.
Following the suspension, team owner/general manager Jerry Jones released a statement about Hardy:
"This suspension is something that we anticipated prior to Greg’s signing, and we respect the Commissioner’s ruling," he said. “Our organization understands the very serious nature of this matter. We will use our resources--work closely with Greg and with the league--to ensure a positive outcome.”
This news comes several weeks after the conclusion of the NFL’s annual meetings in Phoenix, where league commissioner Roger Goodell said he expected to make a ruling on Hardy’s case “in the near future.”
Hardy faced charges of assault and communicating threats against his ex-girlfriend, Nicole Holder, this past February, but those charges were dismissed when Holder could not be located to help with the trial.
In a letter to Hardy, Goodell said an extensive, two-month league investigation had determined that, despite the dismissal of the case, “there was sufficient credible evidence that Hardy engaged in conduct that violated NFL policies in multiple respects and with aggravating circumstances.”
The letter added: “The NFL’s investigation concluded that Hardy violated the Personal Conduct Policy by using physical force against Nicole Holder in at least four instances. First, he used physical force against her which caused her to land in a bathtub. Second, he used physical force against her which caused her to land on a futon that was covered with at least four semi-automatic rifles. Third, he used physical force against her by placing his hands around Ms. Holder’s neck and applying enough pressure to leave visible marks. And fourth, he used physical force to shove Ms. Holder against a wall in his apartment’s entry hallway.”
Hardy missed 15 games during his final season with Carolina last fall. The Panthers moved him to the commissioner’s exempt list prior to their Week 3 game against Pittsburgh while his legal issues developed. Though he missed all but one game, Hardy was still paid his $13 million guaranteed salary under the club’s franchise tag.
The one-year, $13 million contract Hardy signed with the Cowboys earlier this offseason is based largely on incentives and roster bonuses, with no guaranteed money. One of the largest incentives is roughly $9 million in per-game bonuses.
If the suspension is upheld, Hardy stands to lose about $5.78 million in bonuses – which is money the Cowboys will save on their salary cap.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was asked repeatedly at the owners’ meetings if he had an idea of what Hardy’s suspension would entail. He said he did not, but the likelihood of league discipline was something the club had prepared for in deciding to sign Hardy.
“You can look at the precedence of different punishments they’ve levied over the last couple of years to give you a little bit of a guide,” Garrett said.
Hardy could potentially appeal the ruling. If he does in fact serve 10 games, however, his Cowboys debut would come in Week 12 on Thanksgiving. The opponent would be the Carolina Panthers – his former team.