The Dallas Cowboys are a team always in the national headlines. It’s part of the reason they are known as America’s Team, and one of the most iconic sports franchises in the world. But this offseason, the Cowboys have been especially active in the national media due to the recent long-term contract given to All-Pro wide recevier Dez Bryant, the exit of star running back DeMarco Murray and the controversial signing of defensive end Greg Hardy. As for the latter, it seems things are working out with Hardy better than some expected.
After missing all but one game last year as a member of the Carolina Panthers due to a domestic violence incident, the Cowboys signed Hardy to a one-year, $11.3 million deal this offseason with another $1.8 million available through incentives. But that number was significantly reduced when it was found out Hardy would be suspended 10 games this season without pay due to that same incident. After an appeal, that suspension was reduced to only four games. It may be reduced down even more depending if Hardy decides to pursue more legal action.
But bottom line is Hardy wasn’t exactly welcomed in Dallas by all because of his troubled history. Combine that with his rumored personality quirks (called at times unmanageable), and some seemed even to be betting against the 26-year old being able to fit in on this mentally tough team.
So, it may come as a shock to some fans that Hardy is apparently emerging as somewhat of a leader on this team during offseason workouts. And that was confirmed by Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones this week. During an interview, Jones revealed that he is actually proud of the Pro Bowl pass rusher.
"“What I’m proud of it is that we have seen that he’s a serious influence to the tempo, to the passion, to the competitiveness of practicing that probably will carry over to games,” Jones told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “That’s a great deal. I’m just glad to have him out there. I’m glad to have him on the field. So from that standpoint, I’m pleased that we’re going to having his contribution this year.”"
After his controversial signing in March, this seems like the best possible outcome that both Hardy and the Cowboys could hope for. And Dallas certainly needs his pass rushing abilities. Last year, getting to opposing quarterbacks was this team’s biggest weakness, ranking a lowly 28th in the NFL in sacks. In Hardy’s last full season played (2013), he recorded 59 total tackles and 15.0 sacks himself. So you can probably see how he might help the Cowboys in that area this upcoming season.
But it’s not all sunshine and roses when it comes to Hardy in Dallas. There was an early incident between the veteran pass rusher and Cowboys second-year defensive tackle Davon Coleman in April. The two had to be separated by teammates during a practice after Coleman allegedly called Hardy a woman beater. Apparently, this verbal altercation was spurred when the Pro Bowl defensive end questioned the young tackles’ effort during conditioning drills. Something you’d expect a veteran player to do.
Since that incident, things have been relatively quiet concerning Hardy. Outside of the praise for his work ethic, that is. In fact, Cowboys All-Pro tight end Jason Witten, a victim of domestic violence himself, had nothing but positive things to say about the controversial pass rusher.
"“I think more than anything I think everybody knows (I’m against) domestic violence,” Witten told ESPN.com back in May. “That’s unwavering. That’s something that I lived, my family lived. But [Hardy] is a teammate of mine, so I think you have to look at it from that standpoint…I think he’s done a great job since he’s been here…I’ve been really pleased how he’s approached it and how he goes to work and what kind of teammate he’s been. The day he got suspended, the next day he’s in there working out, so I think that’s kind of the mentality he has, what kind of work ethic (he has) and what he’s trying to prove in Dallas.”"
Part of the reason the Cowboys felt comfortable enough to sign a player with Hardy’s history was because of the culture installed by it’s veteran leadership. And Witten is at the very top of that depth chart. So if he vouches for you, than that’s something you can be proud of.
"“I think when you add the guy like that and then he gets suspended and you never know how it’s going to come out,” Witten continued. “The guy works his tail off. Our job is to welcome him and show him the way we do things and embrace him as a teammate, and he’s done everything that you want. He’s a hard worker. Obviously he’s a talented player. I think he’s learned a lot from what he’s gone through in the last year. He’s had a good offseason.”"