Panthers’ coach Ron Rivera: Greg Hardy ‘a heck of a young man’

jperson@charlotteobserver.comMay 16, 2014 

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said little Friday about the criminal charges against Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy, other than to call Hardy “a heck of a young man.”

Hardy, who will be entering his fifth season this fall, and who was given the franchise tag this offseason, allegedly beat up his former girlfriend early Tuesday morning at his apartment in an upscale mid-rise on North Tryon Street.

Hardy’s attorney said it was Nicole Holder, Hardy’s ex-girlfriend, who attacked Hardy.

Speaking to reporters for the first time since the incident, Rivera repeatedly declined to comment, citing the pending nature of the charges.

“I’m not going to comment on it, other than to say that Greg’s a heck of a young man and we’ll go from there,” Rivera said following the first practice of the team’s rookie minicamp.

Asked whether the team has told Hardy to stay away from Bank of America Stadium, Rivera said: “Everything’s pending. I’m not going to talk about that. Besides, this (offseason workout program) is all voluntary.”

The Panthers recently agreed to give Hardy a $1.3 million advance – 10 percent of his guaranteed $13.1 million franchise tag – if he attended all of the workouts.

Hardy spent Tuesday night in jail before he was released Wednesday on $17,000 bond. A judge ordered Hardy to stay away from Holder, attend three Alcoholics Anonymous classes a week and turn over all of his weapons to sheriff’s deputies.

Hardy surrendered nine guns Friday – six semi-automatic rifles and three shotguns – as well as a device used to fire a rifle at a high rate of speed.

Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said the team would “let the legal process take its course” before making any decisions on Hardy’s future or any possible disciplinary actions.

“They’re allegations that he’s got to deal with. It’s in the legal system. I certainly can’t comment,” Gettleman said. “And we are concerned for all parties.”

Holder, in court documents, said Hardy has a cache of 25 to 30 guns and assault rifles at his two Charlotte residences.

Rivera, an NFL linebacker from 1984-1992, said the league does more to try to educate players on domestic violence and gun issues than it did when he played. Rivera also said the Panthers offer additional education and guidance when necessary.

“We do what we need to and what we believe is important. And if we need to go a little bit further, we do,” Rivera said. “I know (Panthers owner Jerry) Richardson’s commitment to making sure we do things the right way.”

The Panthers’ first-year players are scheduled to attend a symposium Friday night called “Your Rookie Year.”

Defensive end Kony Ealy, a second-round pick from Missouri, said team officials have not mentioned Hardy’s situation, but have told the rookies about how their actions will be magnified in the NFL.

“When we first got there they told us, ‘Look, it’s different. You’re on a different level now. So anything you do, everybody’s watching,’ ” Ealy said. “So you definitely have to take heed to it and just act appropriate.”

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