Greg Hardy being found guilty has far reaching implications on his life, and how he is viewed publicly. He has now been found guilty of threatening and assaulting a woman. While this post focuses on the football ramifications of the resulting fallout, it is important to remember that the crimes Hardy was found guilty of committing are serious and give reason to be concerned about the actions of an athlete that the Panthers invested $13 million dollars in; as well as perpetuating some nasty stereotypes about young athletes, generally.
Regardless of the appeal, he may face a suspension from Commissioner Roger Goodell for violating the League’s personal conduct policy. The amount of games suspended varies depending on the infraction and the offending party. Specifically, it will be interesting to see what the commissioner does regarding Ray Rice and his incident with his now-wife in Vegas this past February. So far, Goodell has not adjudicated on the matter.
The amount of games Hardy will miss will be crucial, because another Panthers Defensive End will miss time to start the season – Frank Alexander. Alexander will be suspended for the first four games of the season following a positive PED test. And while Alexander doesn’t start and only had one sack last year, the Panthers are a defense powered by the defensive front and quarterback pressure. General Manager Dave Gettleman came from the NY Giants organization. That franchise’s ability to win two Super Bowls over a five year span was directly tied to the defensive line’s depth. The term “NASCAR” came to mean more than cars driving in a circle, it signified the NFL’s version of 40 minutes of hell; a relentless pass rush by fresh, talented pass rushers.
With two important cogs gone, it will be crucial for Charles Johnson (the team’s next leading sack artist behind Hardy) to continue his fantastic productivity. Johnson and Hardy have developed a palpable chemistry; the tandem was the only set of teammates to each record 10+ sacks last year. Moreover, the pair’s 49.5 sacks since the 2012-2013 season is the most of any duo in the NFL. That particular synergy will most likely be undone, at least early in the year.
While the second round selection of Kony Ealy seemed odd given the holes at Wide Receiver and Left Tackle, it now looks like a solid move given the assumed impending suspension. Additionally, Hardy’s recent legal troubles could mean that the player that accrued the 3rd most sacks in the NFL last season, may be departing from Charlotte at the end of the season.
Simply put, the Hardy arrest and conviction have far-reaching football implications; both immediately and in the future. For fans of the Carolina Panthers, the offseason following the division championship has been fraught with missed opportunities and peculiar missteps. If the franchise can still experience success (read: playoff appearance) given the circumstances, fans will know that they are rooting for an organization that can survive foibles and thrive in spite of them.