- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Ron Rivera said Monday that the Carolina Panthers were fortunate Colin Kaepernick had a bad day when his team faced the 49ers star quarterback in November. He followed that Wednesday with how confident Kaepernick is playing now, adding, "Maybe we'll get lucky and catch him on a bad day."
So what does a key player on Kaepernick's bad day think about those comments?
"Sucks for him," Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy said of Kaepernick. "Should have played better. Hope he comes Sunday."
Asked if the performance of the league's second-ranked defense played a role in Kaepernick's struggles, Hardy said, "Anybody that goes against me is going to have a bad day. I'm a really, really angry person. I've got a bad attitude. So, it's one of those things, you know."
Hardy's numbers in Carolina's 10-9 victory over the 49ers weren't all that impressive. He was credited with three tackles, one for a loss. He didn't have any of the team's six sacks that kept Kaepernick on the run.
He wasn't even credited with a quarterback pressure.
But the team's sack leader (15) did play a major role. He constantly forced Kaepernick to step into the pocket where defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (two sacks) and others were waiting. He kept Kaepernick from getting outside the pocket to escape for long runs as he did with 98 yards in Sunday's 23-20 victory over Green Bay.
He even dropped back into coverage to help.
And the good news for Carolina is Hardy has raised his game to another level since then. He has had seven sacks in the past two games, earning NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his four-sack performance against Atlanta in Week 17.
He's a big reason the Panthers (12-4) are in the playoffs for the first time since 2008, and he's making his playoff debut.
So what does the player with the alter persona known as "The Kraken" think of being on the big stage?
"They're going to give me another check," said Hardy, who stands to get a huge raise when he becomes a free agent after the season.
That shouldn't surprise you. Hardy always talks about money.
But when asked if that's all the playoffs are to him, he clarified.
"What is it about or what does it mean to me?" he said. "What it's about is getting sacks, clearly, and getting wins. Cause I don't like to lose. I have a serious problem with losing.
"What it means is I get another check."
And the playoff experience that San Francisco has and Hardy doesn't? Not worried.
"I don't really know what this playoff stuff is about," Hardy said. "I know what games are about. I win games. I like games. That's how I feel I do my best, when I perform in big games. I feel I'm free. I feel I belong there."
And he didn't get there by having bad days against quarterbacks like Kaepernick.