The Carolina Panthers chose to deactivate defensive end Greg Hardy ahead of their Week 2 game against the Detroit Lions, but the decision appears to have been temporary. Head coach Ron Rivera announced Monday that Hardy will not be suspended by the team, although the organization will continue to evaluate the situation before making a decision whether Hardy will be active against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football.
Hardy filed an appeal after being found guilty on charges of domestic violence and communicating threats stemming from an altercation in May with then-girlfriend Nicole Holder. The defensive end will receive a jury trial that will decide the case. That trial is scheduled to take place in November.
Rivera said Monday that the "changing climate" in the NFL influenced the team's decision. Initially the Panthers had said they would wait for the legal proceedings to be complete before making a determination, but the team's stance changed entering the weekend. He said the possibility of Hardy becoming a distraction played a role in his decision.
"If you play him and you win, then you have no conscience. If you play him and lose he's a distraction."
The Panthers coach added that the front office was gathering more information, saying general manager Dave Gettleman was doing "due diligence" before making a determination on Hardy's status.
"We have to do what's right," Rivera said, "None of us are infallible, we all make mistakes. It's important we get this right and we're doing the best we can."
The Panthers have been highly criticized for their handling of the Hardy case since Rice's suspension, with TIME magazine and an editorial in the Charlotte Observer questioning why the team is keeping Hardy active despite his conviction in July.