While the photos are consistent with the stories we've heard over the last 18 months, there's no escaping the fact that they bring a whole new reality to the situation that we hadn't previously been exposed to. They're not fun to see, and no I will not share them here.
Many Cowboys fans have gone on the defensive, which does tend to happen when fans of other NFL teams seem almost excited for another opportunity to throw a negative umbrella over an entire group of people. I'll be honest in saying the comments I've read on social media make me sad, more than anything. We actually had someone suggest that our social media manager buy a gun and commit suicide. You can't make this stuff up. There are actually individuals out there who believe taking the moral high ground on the Greg Hardy issue means wishing death upon others.
With that said, let me try to articulate my own views on Hardy, while hopefully speaking for a number of my fellow Cowboys fans.
When I saw articles in the off-season suggesting that the Cowboys sign him, I thought the idea was crazy. He had been out of football for a year, and I just didn't think the circus that would come to town with him was worth it. Again when the NFL passed down their 10-game suspension (and the Cowboys had acquired pass-rusher Randy Gregory in the draft) I found myself suggesting they just cut him. We'll figure out another way, I thought.
Eventually, Hardy went through the appeal process and got his suspension reduced to four games and it became obvious that the Cowboys were going to see this through. At that point, I decided I had to look at this situation holistically:
The NFL — with all the evidence that was available to the judge in Hardy's court hearing — had determined that Hardy is eligible to continue playing in the National Football League. It shouldn't be surprising, then, that some team would sign him. I may not be proud to call him a Cowboy, but the reality is that he's here and the Cowboys were planning to stand behind his right to continue his career as a professional football player.
I knew it wouldn't be a fun ride. The NFL knew that. The Cowboys knew that. As such, the last three weeks have gone pretty much as expected. People are angry. Rightfully so, even. They're angry that good things — like getting paid millions of dollars to play a game for a living — are happening to a guy like Greg Hardy. They're angry at Cowboys fans who refuse to condemn their team for giving Hardy that opportunity. They're angry at the NFL and Roger Goodell for making a much more concerted effort to punish Tom Brady for allegedly having footballs under-inflated than they made to punish an alleged domestic abuser.
I get it, and I empathize with it. I can even forgive some of the vitriol that has been directed at Cowboys fans who are trying to defend the Cowboys for signing Hardy. He hasn't exactly made any efforts since his reinstatement to change his image, so it's hard to see people defend him on any grounds.
Before you get too caught-up in all that, though, keep in mind that Hardy might be a free agent this off-season. Keep in mind that your favorite team might sign him. Face the reality that there's about a 75% chance your favorite team will at least make a phone call to his agent. Barring any new developments, that's just a fact.
A common claim being made right now is that the Cowboys were the only team that would have signed this guy. That is false. There were actually three teams who were willing to openly pursue Hardy almost immediately after he hit free agency. Even then, the number of teams willing to sign Hardy was not limited to three. There were three teams willing to pay him like a franchise pass-rusher.
Had those three teams stayed away from Hardy, his asking price would have dropped. Trust me, several NFL teams had some price they would have paid to fall on the grenade and be the first team to give Hardy a chance to come back. The Cowboys just had the biggest need at the position and were willing to pay the most money. I get the criticism directed at them for it anyway, but if we want to throw stones at the Cowboys then we should acknowledge the reality that Hardy was going to be on somebody's football team this year regardless.
Should Greg Hardy be allowed to play in the NFL? I understand arguments for and against it, but the bottom-line for me is that that decision has already been made using all the evidence that we have today. Nicole Holder accepted a cash settlement as retribution for what happened that night and has moved on with her life.
Frankly, I think we should all do the same.