Greg Hardy will have to wait to begin his 2015 season after he was suspended for a total of 10 games on Wednesday. He won’t be paid by the Dallas Cowboys during that time. This is different than last year, when he was not allowed to play but was still picking up those paychecks. Hardy does have the ability to appeal.
Instantly, it caused a wave of confusion. The NFL recently put together a new domestic violence policy that said a player would automatically get six games for these types of issues. For further issues after that, players could be permanently banned. How did Hardy possibly end up with a 10-game suspension, which seems like an entirely random number that does not fit either the new or the old policy?
There are two reasons. First of all, as CNN reported when the new policy first came out, the six games are for domestic violence, violent conduct or sexual assault. However, Roger Goodell’s memo on the topic also stated that aggravating circumstances could lead to a longer suspension. No exact amount of games seems to have been mentioned for the additional suspension, in essence leaving the door open for Goodell to make that call however he sees fit, as long as he doesn’t give out fewer than six games.
In this case, the NFL could be viewing the criminal case as an aggravating circumstance. Hardy was able to avoid legal punishment when the victim refused to talk to investigators, the court or the NFL. As such, the charges were dropped.
Perhaps the NFL knows exactly how that looks and added four games because of it.
The second reason is that the NFL technically said this suspension is for conduct detrimental to the league. That’s an umbrella term. Yes, they do mean domestic violence since that’s what this case is about, but it’s possible they termed it that way because Goodell still has the power to choose the sentence for conduct detrimental to the league. This way, he did not have to even consider the six-game rule, and he could make the suspension any length he wanted.
He thought 10 games would be more appropriate than six, so he made it 10.
However, that terminology is largely circumstantial, and Hardy will no doubt argue correctly in his appeal that this is a domestic violence issue. Therefore, the first reason has far more to do with the decision than anything else. The six games are merely a minimum, not a guarantee, and the league can still add games when needed.
Hardy and the Players’ Association will probably claim the length should be reduced in the appeal, so this is far from over. They’ll point at the six games as a benchmark and ask the league to reduce it. What remains to be seen is if the following case is ruled in favor of the NFL or in favor of Hardy. On top of that, the PA may even point out that this happened before the new agreement had even been established.
It will be a winding road to the end, but the league will fight hard to make the 10 games stick. They want to send a clear message that domestic violence will not be tolerated. They’ve been taking great strides in this direction since last year, and this is a chance for them to make their position very clear. They want to ensure that other players know there are significant penalties for being involved in these incidents, no matter how the legal cases play out.
Ironically, if the 10 games stick, Hardy will return the very week the Carolina Panthers, his former team, come to Dallas.