Arbitrator Harold Henderson has upheld Hardy's suspension for conduct detrimental to the league, but has reduced the ban from 10 to four games, the NFL announced on Friday. Hardy was suspended in April for his role in a 2014 domestic violence incident.
"I find that the conduct of Hardy clearly violates the letter and spirit of any version of the (personal conduct policy) since its inception, and of the NFL Constitution and Bylaws long before then. The egregious conduct exhibited here is indefensible in the NFL," Henderson said in a statement obtained by NFL Media's Albert Breer. "However, ten games is simply too much, in my view, of an increase over prior cases without notice such as was done last year, when the 'baseline' for discipline in domestic violence or sexual assault cases was announced as a six-game suspension."
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported that agent Drew Rosenhaus, the NFL Players Association and Greg Hardy's lawyer will consider their options before deciding how to proceed and whether to accept the reduction. Hardy has the option of fighting to further reduce his discipline in federal court.
"I will confer with Greg, the NFLPA and his lawyers to discuss our next move," Rosenhaus told Rapoport. "Still considering further legal action."
Hardy's initial suspension came following a two-month investigation by the league into Hardy's domestic violence incident last year involving ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder. Hardy was convicted of the charges in a bench trial, but the legal case in North Carolina state court was dismissed in February when Holder chose not to cooperate. The league found sufficient credible evidence that Hardy engaged in conduct that violated NFL policies.
The Cowboys signed Hardy to an incentive-laden one-year deal in March that protected the team in the event of a lengthy suspension. More than $11 million of the $13.1 million maximum comes in the form of per-game roster and workout bonuses.
"We are looking forward to the start of the season and having Greg be a part of the team," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in a statement on Friday.
Hardy missed all but one game with the Panthers last season after being placed on the Exempt/Commissioner's Permission List. If Hardy chooses to accept Henderson's ruling, he will miss 19 regular-season games as a result of his legal issues. Hardy continued to get paid while on the exempt list; he will not receive a pay check for any games missed with the Cowboys.
The Cowboys defense will get a lot better after Week 4. Both Hardy and middle linebacker Rolando McClain -- suspended last week for violation of the league's policy on substances of abuse -- are eligible to return to the lineup against the New England Patriots.
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