Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy received a 10-game suspension without pay from the NFL for his involvement in a domestic violence case that was dismissed earlier in February, according to a league press release. Hardy and the NFLPA will appeal the suspension, but if it holds, his first game back will see him face off against his former team, the Carolina Panthers, on Thanksgiving Day.
Hardy, 26, played in just one game in 2014 and spent the rest of the season on the commissioner's exempt list after he was convicted of assaulting and threatening to kill an ex-girlfriend. His appeal trial was dismissed due to the unavailability of his accuser, Nicole Holder, although a settlement was reportedly reached outside of court.
One key component of the NFL's investigation was when it was allowed to view seven photographs from Hardy's domestic violence bench trial last summer, per a deal reached with the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's office. The Charlotte Observer's Joseph Person reported that the photos are of injuries sustained by Holder, his ex-girlfriend, during the alleged altercation with Hardy.
In the press release, the NFL stated the suspension was based on "conduct detrimental to the league in violation of the NFL Constitution and By-Laws." The release goes on to reference a two-month-long investigation involving court records as well as witness and expert interviews, though league investigators were unable to speak with Holder. It goes on to detail the events that led to Hardy's charges:
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.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell explained how Hardy's actions were interpreted in relation to the league's personal conduct policy:
"The net effect of these acts was that Ms. Holder was severely traumatized and sustained a range of injuries, including bruises and scratches on her neck, shoulders, upper chest, back, arms and feet," Commissioner Goodell wrote. "The use of physical force under the circumstances present here, against a woman substantially smaller than you and in the presence of powerful, military-style assault weapons, constitutes a significant act of violence in violation of the Personal Conduct Policy."
Under the league's new personal conduct policy, a minimum six-game suspension is handed down to first-time offenders who commit acts of domestic violence, but games can be added for "aggravating factors." The league's press release stated that Hardy's suspension would be appropriate "under any version of the Personal Conduct Policy or its predecessors." Another violation would result in a lifetime ban for Hardy.
The Cowboys signed Hardy in March to a one-year deal that could be worth a maximum of $13.1 million. The contract includes incentives and per game bonuses, which supplement a base salary of $750,000. By missing 10 games, Hardy would lose approximately $5.8 million, per ESPN's Field Yates.
If his suspension is upheld, Hardy's first game since Week 1 of the 2014 season will come in Week 12. The Cowboys will host the Panthers on Thanksgiving at 4:30 p.m. ET.
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