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Greg Hardy says he's 'never put [his] hand on any women'

Former Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy says he's innocent.

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Defensive end Greg Hardy is a top pass rusher in his prime, but isn't drawing much interest on the free agent market because of his off-field history. Now he's trying to combat that negative image by denying he ever did anything wrong.

"I've never put my hand on any women in my whole entire life," Hardy told ESPN's Adam Schefter in an interview which aired in full on Tuesday. "That's just not how we're raised. As you can tell, like I said again, it's the Bible belt. It's just something that's, I wouldn't even say frowned upon, it's just nonexistent in most Southern homes."

Hardy, 27, was convicted by a North Carolina judge for assault, but when he appealed with a trial by jury, the charges and his conviction were thrown out due to a lack of cooperation from his accuser. Still, there were photos from Hardy's alleged attack and the defensive end drew even more criticism for his public handling of the accusations.

According to the victim's account, Hardy dragged her by her hair, threw her on to a futon covered with guns, strangled her and threatened her life. As a condition of his release on bond, Hardy turned over nine firearms to police.

"I didn't say that I didn't do anything wrong," Hardy told Schefter. "That situation occurred and that situation was handled but ... saying that I did nothing wrong is a stretch but saying I am innocent is correct. Yes sir."

As far as the photographic evidence established by police as part of their investigation into the matter, Hardy was dismissive.

"Pictures are pictures, and they can be made to look like whatever they want to," he said.

Schefter asked Hardy about former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who remains out of the league following an incident in which he knocked his now-wife unconscious in an elevator. Hardy said there's a big difference between his situation and Rice's.

"I'd say it's the story of an innocent man and a guilty man," Hardy said.

In the second half of the interview, Schefter addressed some of the other controversial comments from Hardy over the years.

Hardy has made comments, via Twitter and in person, that could be described as insensitive at best. He attributed these situations to entering into "waters where I allowed myself to be targeted." Hardy pointed to his perception of himself as an entertainer as justification for his remarks.

"Like I said, I put myself in a situation where I could be attacked," Hardy said. "In my head, at the time, I'm an entertainer. I don't do interviews and they want me to do interviews, so I do the interviews, and I try to be entertaining, and I just don't remember my situation while I'm being an entertainer."

Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith took to Twitter afterward to call out his former teammate:

In his first season with the Cowboys, Hardy finished with six sacks, but didn't make many friends in Dallas. He got in a shouting match with Dez Bryantslapped a clipboard out of the hands of special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia and was involved in a fight with a teammate who called him a "woman beater" in practice.

Hardy would just prefer everyone would forget about the off-the-field issues and focus on his production on the field.

"I would just ask people to separate my business from my actual personal record and just give me a shot to just step up and continue to break records and work harder than everyone else and myself," Hardy said.

Only Demarcus Lawrence finished with more sacks for the Cowboys, a team very much in need of defensive end talent, but the team didn't think it was worth bringing Hardy back for another season. Before he arrived in Dallas, Hardy racked up 26 sacks over a two-season span with the Carolina Panthers, earning a Pro Bowl nod in 2013, before he spent almost the entire 2014 season sidelined due to his domestic violence case.