IRVING, Texas -- For the first time since signing with Dallas in March, defensive end Greg Hardy spoke at length Tuesday, but not about the incident that led to him missing 15 games last season with the Carolina Panthers and the first four games this season with the Cowboys.
"In the last few seasons, man, honestly, it's been a blur just getting ready to come back," Hardy said in a roughly 10-minute interview session, surrounded by reporters at his locker. "And now that I'm back, I don't reminisce. I don't look back, other than to know that I need to get forward, I need to get to progress and I need to get to sacks, and I need to get to the place where I need to be to help this team. That's where we're at right now."
In April, the NFL suspended Hardy 10 games for what it called multiple violations of the league's personal conduct policy stemming from an incident involving a former girlfriend. Hardy initially was found guilty by a Mecklenburg, North Carolina, district judge of assaulting and threatening to kill Nicole Holder and was given a 60-day suspended sentence and 18 months' probation on misdemeanor charges.
He filed an immediate appeal seeking a jury trial, and charges eventually were dismissed when Holder refused to cooperate with law enforcement after receiving a settlement.
In July, Hardy saw his 10-game suspension reduced to four games by arbitrator Harold Henderson, who ruled the penalty was too harsh when the baseline for cases under the personal conduct policy is a six-game suspension.
He chose not to seek further reduction through the courts and accepted his punishment.
Asked whether he had a message for those who do not believe he deserves a second chance, Hardy said, "God bless you. That's the message."
Asked what he learned about himself during the process, he said, "I'm a really good pass-rusher when I put my mind to it. I had a good offseason and a good camp. We were all there. I got to be a part of the group and got to get off the ball with a good group of defensive ends and some defensive tackles and get back to the swing of things. That feeling right there is more than anything that could've happened to me."
Asked whether he had any remorse or regrets, he said, "I'm sorry I couldn't be here for my teammates. The worst feeling in the world is not being there for somebody you care about or somebody that needs you. That's what we need, a full team, and everybody pulling their load. And that's what I'm going to do when I come back."
Before signing Hardy to a one-year deal, which does not include any guaranteed money, the Cowboys said they investigated Hardy's background by talking to former coaches he has had along the way. Cowboys defensive assistant Turner West was a high school teammate of Hardy's at Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis, Tennessee.
On Hardy's visit to the team before signing, they stressed they were not selling the Cowboys; he had to sell himself to the team.
"It's been the most awesome period of my life, man. I'm a Dallas Cowboy," Hardy said. "Dream come true. Big star on my helmet. Jerry Jones up there, checking me out every week. I'm ecstatic, happy and elated."
Because of the suspension, Hardy missed out on roughly $176,000 of his $750,000 base salary and $2.3 million in roster bonuses. For every week he is on the 53-man roster, he will earn a $578,125 roster bonus. He can earn up to $1.804 million in incentives and already earned $1.3 million in an offseason workout bonus. He was on the commissioner's exempt list for the final 14 games last season but still collected his $13.1 million salary as the Panthers' franchise player.
Hardy said he does not believe it will take him long to get up to game speed and that he expects to play Sunday against the New England Patriots. He said he maintained his conditioning and strength while working out during his suspension and that he will benefit from being able to take part in the offseason program, training camp and the preseason games. He was credited with three tackles and did not have a sack.
In his past 32 regular-season games, Hardy has 27 sacks. The Cowboys signed him in free agency to bolster their pass rush. So far this season, the Cowboys have six sacks and are coming off a season-high three against the New Orleans Saints.
Facing Tom Brady, the Cowboys will need Hardy to play at a Pro Bowl level almost from the start. He said he does not believe it will take him long to get up to game speed.
"I hope not," Hardy said. "I hope I come out guns blazin'. I'm full of excitement and full of juice. I'm ready to go. I have what they call fresh legs. I'm really excited to get out there on that grass or turf and see what they can do."