Panthers would welcome Greg Hardy

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Three team captains for the Carolina Panthers said they would welcome back defensive end Greg Hardy if he were to be reinstated by the NFL.

"Selfishly, as a player, would we want him as a player on our team? Of course. He makes us better," tight end Greg Olsen told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "We also have to understand there's a bigger picture. There's bigger things at play, socially, just the environment we're in. You have to respect that.

"I'm glad I'm not the one making the decisions. I trust that the people that have that power -- mostly on the league side -- will do what's in the best interest of everyone."

Hardy was placed on the commissioner's exempt list prior to the third game of the season until his domestic violence case was resolved. That case was scheduled for Nov. 17, but the Mecklenburg County Courthouse announced on Monday the trial wouldn't be held until early in 2015 because of a heavy case backload.

An NFL spokesman told ESPN.com that there has been no change in Hardy's status and that its original statement still stands.

That statement said: "The agreement with the union regarding Greg Hardy's status states that he agreed to be placed on the commissioner-exempt list with full pay until the criminal charges pending against him are adjudicated, and that no discipline will be imposed against him by the team or league until the charges are adjudicated."

Carolina coach Ron Rivera said Hardy should be allowed to return because the trial date was moved. He said the 2013 Pro Bowl selection already has missed eight games and that under the NFL code of conduct policy Hardy would have been suspended only six games.

"I know it's up in the league's hands right now in terms of what the next steps will be and they'll let us know as far as that's concerned," Rivera said.

Rivera said the team has had no official word from the league on the matter. He said general manager Dave Gettleman is handling the situation.

"I do know that Dave will be in contact with them in trying to figure out what's going on and what the next step will be," Rivera said.

Defensive end Charles Johnson agreed that Hardy should be allowed back.

"We support him 100 percent," he said. "If Coach wants him back, I definitely want him back. That's my guy. He's a brother of ours. If they want to bring him back, I'm 100 percent with him."

Johnson doesn't believe Hardy would be a distraction to the team, which is preparing for a Monday night game at Philadelphia, if he returned.

"Not at all," he said.

That wasn't the case when Hardy was placed on the inactive list prior to the second game, then on the exempt list three days later.

"The decision early on was that it was a distraction, the whole situation," center Ryan Kalil said. "My opinion has always been I don't really have control over that stuff. If the decision is he can't come back, then he can't come back. If the decision is he comes back, he comes back. I'll support it either way.

"We have the right people in charge, good guys who will do the right thing. Whatever they decide, I'll back them."

Rivera has remained in contact with Hardy since last season's sack leader was placed on the exempt list. He said Hardy has expressed an interest in wanting to play and indicated he's in shape to play if he's allowed to return.

"I would believe so on both accounts," Rivera said. "That's all I can tell you."