Coach: Hardy 'heck of a young man'

ByDavid Newton Via <a Href="" Title="espn" Class="espn_sc_byline">espn </a>
May 16, 2014, 1:40 PM

&#151; -- CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Other than saying Greg Hardy is a "heck of a young man,'' Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera did his best on Friday to keep the focus off the legal issues facing his defensive end and on his rookie mini-camp.

Hardy was arrested on Tuesday and charged with assault and threats involving a domestic violence incident with Nicole Holder, a 24-year-old woman he has been in a relationship with since September.

Holder said in court documents filed on Thursday that her "short-lived relationship'' with entertainer/rapper Nelly led Hardy to snap. Hardy's attorney, Chris Fialko, contended in court his client was not the aggressor.

Hardy was released Wednesday on a $17,000 bond that included an amendment on Thursday asking him to turn over all weapons and firearms that he had access to. Holder contended she was thrown on a couch that had 25 to 30 guns.

Until Friday, the only comment out of the Panthers was a statement saying the organization was disappointed and would continue to investigate the situation.

Rivera would not comment on whether he and Hardy have spoken or any possible disciplinary actions the team's 2013 sack leader (15) might face from the organization or how this might impact plans to sign Hardy to a long-term deal. He repeatedly referred to the situation as "pending.''

"I'm not going to comment about it,'' Rivera said. "I'm really not other than to say Greg's a heck of a young man and we'll go from there.''

Second-round draft pick Kony Ealy, a defensive end out of Missouri, said he didn't have any "knowledge about anything that is going on.''

"As far as that, I'm just out there trying to be better,'' he said.

Ealy said the rookies and other new players were not spoken to directly about Hardy's situation, but were advised "you're on a different level now, so anything you do everybody's watching.''

Rivera said the league and the teams are doing a lot more in education on domestic violence than when he was a player in the 1980s and early 1990s.

"It has changed,'' he said. "There is a lot the league is trying to do in working with the NFLPA making sure these young people are educated on situations and circumstances.

"A very important person for us is Mark Carrier. Mark is the director of player engagement. And again, trying to find ways to help these young men grow not just as football players, but as people.''

Hardy's arrest is the latest in what Rivera called an "interesting'' offseason for the Panthers, coming off a 12-4 season. They lost left tackle Jordan Gross to retirement, cut all-time leading receiver Steve Smith and lost franchise quarterback Cam Newton for four months after he underwent ankle surgery.

But the Hardy situation has the potential to be the biggest distraction because of the national attention and potential long-term implications for a team that used its franchise tag on the player. Beyond what Hardy could face in the legal system, he could face discipline from the Panthers as well as the NFL under the league's personal conduct policy. Typically, however, discipline for the conduct policy does not result for a first offense.

The last known player on an active NFL roster suspended by the league specifically for violating the personal conduct code was former Tennessee wide receiver Kenny Britt. Britt was suspended for one game in 2012 as a result of multiple incidents with police, including a DUI.

The league's standard of conduct includes: criminal offenses including, but not limited to, those involving the use or threat of violence; domestic violence and other forms of partner abuse.

As part of the disciplinary action, persons arrested, charged or otherwise appearing to have engaged in conduct prohibited under this policy generally will be required to undergo a clinical evaluation.

Based on the results of that evaluation the person may be required to participate in an education program, counseling or other treatment deemed appropriate by health professionals. The league also may discipline in the form of fines, suspension or banishment from the league.

"The biggest thing we need to do more so than anything is continue to focus on what we're doing on the football field and let other things play out,'' Rivera said. "The thing that is really more important right now more so than anything else is the guys that are here working hard.

"I'm going to try to stress that this really is about who's here trying to get things that we need to get done.''

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