BARRY WILNER, AP Pro Football Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL suspended defensive end Greg Hardy for 10 games without pay Wednesday for conduct detrimental to the league after concluding there was “credible evidence” he roughed up his former girlfriend nearly a year ago when he was a member of the Carolina Panthers.
Hardy, who joined the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent on a one-year, incentive-laden deal, was notified Wednesday of the decision in a letter from Commissioner Roger Goodell. Hardy plans to appeal.
Goodell cited “sufficient credible evidence that Hardy engaged in conduct that violated NFL policies in multiple respects and with aggravating circumstances.” His assault case had been dismissed in a North Carolina court because his accuser refused to cooperate with prosecutors, but an NFL investigation concluded that Hardy used physical force against Nicole Holder in at least four instances.
“The net effect of these acts was that Ms. Holder was severely traumatized and sustained a range of injuries, including bruises and scratches on her neck, shoulders, upper chest, back, arms and feet,” Goodell wrote. “The use of physical force under the circumstances present here, against a woman substantially smaller than you and in the presence of powerful, military-style assault weapons, constitutes a significant act of violence in violation of the personal conduct policy.”
The 26-year-old Hardy was on the commissioner’s Exempt List last season and did not play for Carolina, although he was paid his $13.1 million salary. He was suspended under a policy that was revised after the league was widely criticized for its handling of a domestic violence case involving former Baltimore running back Ray Rice.
“This suspension is something that we anticipated prior to Greg’s signing, and we respect the commissioner’s ruling,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Wednesday in a statement. “Our organization understands the very serious nature of this matter. We will use our resources —work closely with Greg and with the league — to ensure a positive outcome.”
After what the NFL called an extensive two-month investigation led by Lisa Friel, who recently was hired by the league to oversee such probes, it was determined that Hardy would be suspended “under any version of the personal conduct policy or its predecessors.”
Among the evidence Friel’s investigation uncovered was that on May 13, 2014, Hardy:
—used physical force against (Holder) which caused her to land in a bathtub;
—used physical force against her which caused her to land on a futon that was covered with at least four semi-automatic rifles;
—used physical force against her by placing his hands around her neck, applying enough pressure to leave visible marks.
—used physical force to shove her against a wall in his apartment’s entry hallway.
The NFL also concluded that Hardy failed to provide complete and accurate information to investigators and members of the league staff.
The league said Friel’s investigation involved interviews with witnesses and experts; a review of hundreds of pages of court records, documents and exhibits, photographs, police reports, medical records; and reports and opinions of medical experts retained by Hardy’s attorneys and by the NFL office.
Hardy and his legal counsel, along with representatives of the players’ union, met with NFL staff and investigators on March 4. Hardy and his attorneys also met on March 10 with independent investigators, when, the league said, he had the opportunity to discuss and respond to questions about the events.
Holder was not interviewed by the league.
Goodell also directed Hardy to have a clinical evaluation conducted and, should counseling or treatment be recommended, Hardy will be expected to comply.
Hardy’s suspension will begin on Sept. 5, the day of final roster cuts. He may participate in all preseason activities and games, the offseason workout program, organized team activities, minicamps and training camp.
Coincidentally, he is eligible to return to play Carolina. On Thanksgiving Day.
“You must have no further adverse involvement with law enforcement and must not commit any additional violations of league policies,” Goodell wrote. “In that respect, you should understand that another violation of this nature may result in your banishment from the NFL.”
AP Sports Writer Steve Reed in Charlotte, North Carolina, contributed to this report.
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