When it comes to players accused of domestic violence whose cases are still pending, the NFL has discovered plutonium by accident.
Either way, the emerging trend is to suspend the player with pay, via the little-known Exemption/Commissioner’s Permission designation. It’s catch-all that allows a team to park a player on the sidelines for an indefinite period of time. And it’s the modern equivalent of the Bucs and Eagles sending Keyshawn Johnson and Terrell Owens, respectively, home with pay.
Because the labor deal no longer allows guys to be sent home with pay, the player has to agree to this approach. In the case of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, the player agreed. In the case of Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that the player hasn’t, yet.
While there’s a good chance he will, keep in mind that Hardy faces evidence that is less clear than the charges pending against Peterson, who essentially admits spanking his son to the point of broken skin. Hardy, found guilty via a preliminary trial so informal that the state doesn’t even generate a transcript of the proceedings, still has a chance to go to court and to pull out a win before a jury, especially since the standard for a criminal conviction is so high.
Apart from the fact that Hardy may be exonerated is the reality that he’s due to become a free agent in 2015. If he’s not playing, it becomes harder for Hardy to position himself for a major payday in free agency. And if he’s ultimately acquitted, that major payday could still come.
Regardless of Hardy’s circumstances, this seat-of-the-pants procedure gives the NFL too easy of a way out of the maze the league has created by caring about what players do when not at work. Instead of suspending the player with pay before his case ends and then presumably suspending him without pay after he is found legally responsible, the league should mobilize an NTSB-style team of investigators to explore the circumstances and make a quick decision as to whether the player is or isn’t guilty.
If the NFL believes he’s clean, he plays. If the NFL thinks he did something wrong, he receives punishment. Either way, the cloud of uncertainty won’t linger over the player, his team, and the league.