-- CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers have no plan to change their stance, saying they'll continue to let defensive end Greg Hardy play while the legal system handles his domestic violence case.
The 2013 Pro Bowl selection was found guilty in July by a Mecklenburg County judge of assaulting and threatening ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder. The judge gave Hardy 18 months probation and a 60-day jail sentence that was suspended. Hardy appealed the verdict, which puts the terms of the probation on hold and entitles him to a jury trial under North Carolina law since he was convicted of a misdemeanor. The trial has been set for Nov. 17.
Under state law involving defendants convicted of a misdemeanor, the jury trial will take place as if no previous trial took place.
Hardy's attorney insists the case won't be heard until 2015 because of the court's case backload.
Both the Panthers and the NFL remain adamant they won't consider any discipline until that outcome, and Hardy will start as usual in Sunday's home opener against Detroit.
"We are in a process, and we're letting the process play its way out," Carolina coach Ron Rivera said Friday. "Because of that, we're following through with the situation, set of circumstances. We're not trying to do anything below board or way above board.
"We're trying to go through the process as we understand it. We're going to do the best we can. The players have handled it tremendously well. It's been really hard on them, I know, as far as those things. But again, get on the football field and be able to handle those situations, circumstances, that's what the guys have done."
The NFL and the Panthers have maintained their stance despite heightened awareness of domestic violence after tapes of then- Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching out then-fiancée Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator in February came out Monday.
Rice was released by the Ravens later in the day and placed on indefinite suspension by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who had suspended Rice for the first two games after the player entered a pretrial intervention program.
The tapes put the focus back on domestic violence and cases such as Hardy's. The pressure intensified on Hardy after he missed Wednesday's practice to meet with the attorney handling the case.
Then on Wednesday night, when receiving the Echo Award Against Indifference, team owner Jerry Richardson came to tears as he addressed critics who have called his stance on Hardy's case lenient.
"Standing before you tonight, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge an issue weighing heavily on our sport and our society," Richardson said. "When it comes to domestic violence, my stance is not one of indifference. I stand firmly against domestic violence, plain and simple."
Since then, Rivera and players have had a steady stream of questions about Hardy and the league's stance on domestic violence.
"They want to talk about football, they want to talk about who they're playing, they want to talk about themselves, they want to see their pictures in the paper doing good things," he said. "That's the truth of the matter. It's hard. It's tough, and as a coach you want your guys to be able to focus in on what they have to do."
Rivera said there is concern that the outside distractions will have an impact on the team's performance against Detroit. He added that he has to walk a fine line not to give the perception the team isn't taking the matter seriously.
"It's tough. I get it. I understand the circumstances," he said. "But at the same time, we've got to push through things."
That the Ravens played so well in Thursday night's 26-6 victory against Pittsburgh, Rivera said, was encouraging.
He even referred to a postgame interview from Baltimore wide receiver Steve Smith, Carolina's all-time leading receiver who was released in March.
"They were able to focus and did a nice job," Rivera said. "Whatever [coach] John Harbaugh did, he did very well. Steve Smith said it very well, 'We're professional football players, and we understand the serious nature of the situation, but we were able to compartmentalize it and focus in on what we had to do.' "
Carolina strong safety Roman Harper said the Panthers have done a good job of avoiding outside distractions as it pertains to preparing for Detroit.
"At the end of the day, it's all about the team," Harper said. "As long as you handle everything internally, there are no distractions. The biggest thing is coming together and understanding what we've got to get accomplished.
"It's all about winning and doing whatever it takes. At the end of the day, you can't let anything else bother you."
Harper said he has no problem playing with Hardy.
"If he's my teammate, of course I'll play with the guy," he said. "I can't control what roster moves are made. I can only control what goes on in between those white lines."