Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy missed most of the 2014 regular season, under an agreement that placed him on paid leave until the pending criminal charges against him were resolved.
The charges are now resolved. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be instantly reinstated.
“His status remains unchanged until we fully review the matter,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT via email.
It’s a complicated matter to review. With the charges dismissed due reportedly to a lack of cooperation from the victim (who reportedly receiver a sizable chunk of Hardy’s $13.1 million salary in 2014 to stop cooperating), it hardly means Hardy is innocent. A judge previously found Hardy guilty of assault in a preliminary hearing that served as a threshold to a jury trial. While the court does not create transcripts of such proceedings, Hardy’s lawyer retained a court reporter, and the NFL undoubtedly will want to review the transcript as part of a formal review of Hardy’s status.
Even though he’ll face no criminal penalties, the NFL can still impose discipline under the personal conduct policy, if the NFL concludes that Hardy engaged in behavior that violates the NFL’s standards for off-field behavior.
For Hardy, time is of the essence; he’s due to become a free agent on March 10. Certainty regarding his suspension, if any, will make it easier for other teams to sign him.
Whatever happens, Hardy shouldn’t count on getting credit for time served on paid leave. The NFL remains firmly committed to the notion that games missed with pay aren’t really games missed, even though the imposition of a fine in the amount of money already received for games not played can simulate a retroactive unpaid suspension.
In Hardy’s case, the fact that he agreed to accept paid leave makes it even harder for him to avoid an unpaid suspension in 2015.