Tuesday, September 3, 2013
The Wonderful World of Greg Hardy
By David Newton
Greg Hardy has high expectations this season for the Carolina defense.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Greg Hardy has his back to a group of us surrounding his locker on Monday, so he doesn't realize we're innocently eavesdropping on his conversation with members of the Carolina Panthers defensive line he has dubbed "MonStrz Inc."
Not that it matters.
On the record or off, the defensive end is entertaining.
And he's already in midseason form even though the opener against the Seattle Seahawks isn't until Sunday.
Welcome to the "Wonderful World of Hardy.'' It'll likely be a weekly staple on this page considering there is no player in the Carolina locker room more colorful or outspoken.
It didn't take long for a newbie like myself to realize this. On my first day of training camp in August, this 6-foot-4, 290-pound man-child was delivering one-liners faster than he does sacks.
Asked if he'd hit his ceiling as a player: "There is no roof. The sky keeps going. So that's where I'm going.''
Asked how he came up with individual nicknames for "MonStrz Inc.'' -- a play on "Monsters, Inc.'' to hopefully avoid potential legal issues with the Disney Pixar animation: "I am really talented.''
Monday is more of the same as Hardy holds court about a variety of topics surrounding the opener.
On how many sacks he will have against the Seahawks: "Got a TV? Watch it.''
On the player introduction dance he unveiled during Thursday's preseason finale: "I'm experimenting. That's just my hybrid engine mode.''
On whether he would take Carolina quarterback Cam Newton or Seattle's Russell Wilson: "I'd take Cam over everybody, but I'm a Cam fan. I'm biased.''
On what he thinks of Wilson, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie: "He's a good quarterback, but we're in the NFL. Nothing new.''
On if Sunday's game will be a defensive struggle like the 16-12 loss to Seattle last season: "Honestly, if I played quarterback I'd tell you something different. All I really know how to do is play defense. I'm going to be a defensive-oriented guy this game. I don't know about everybody else.''
On his preseason prediction that he would collect 50 sacks, more than twice that of the NFL-record 22.5 set by Michael Strahan in 2001: "I said I was going to shoot for 50. I'll shoot for as many as I can get. I'm going out there and give 100 percent as I always do. Hopefully, I can squeeze out 110.''
That would be 110 percent. Not sacks.
But with Hardy, who had a breakout season in 2012 with 11 sacks and 23 quarterback pressures that has the Panthers talking contract extension, you never can be quite sure.
However, one thing is for sure: Hardy and the rest of Carolina's front seven must be accounted for on Sunday. Veteran strong safety Quintin Mikell, signed on Monday, calls it the best front seven he's ever been a part of. And Mikell played with some pretty good defenses in Philadelphia from 2003 to 2010.
Hardy likes what the secondary brings to the group this season that was lacking a year ago.
"I trust those guys a whole lot more,'' he says. "Those guys are covering. They're moving well. I know they want more just like the D-line does. That's what's going to make our whole defense great.''
The potential is there. But so far Hardy has given nicknames only to the defensive front. In case you missed it, Hardy is known as "The Kraken."