“Here’s what you can’t do this time, you can’t blame Roger Goodell.”– Bob Costas on Greg Hardy situation
“Wouldn’t it feel good, just for once, to have the NFL players on this critical issue in the country, come out front and say we want stricter, not lesser, punishments for our players that are involved in domestic violence issues.” – Cris Collinsworth on Greg Hardy
“They don’t condone domestic violence, but they have to protect the rights of each and every player, including Greg Hardy in this case.” – Mike Florio on NFL Players Association
STAMFORD, Conn. – November 8, 2015 – Following are highlights from Football Night in America, which aired prior to NBC’s Sunday Night Football matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys. Bob Costas opened the show live from inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and was joined on site by Sunday Night Football analyst Cris Collinsworth, sideline reporter Michele Tafoya, and NBC NFL analyst Hines Ward.
Dan Patrick co-hosted Football Night, the most-watched weekly studio show in sports, from NBC Sports Group’s Studio 1 in Stamford, Conn. He was joined by Super Bowl-winning head coach Tony Dungy; two-time Super Bowl winner Rodney Harrison; and NFL Insiders Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk on NBCSports.com and Peter King. Paul Burmeister reported from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind., on the Broncos-Colts game.
Football Night in America devoted extensive coverage to the Greg Hardy situation tonight. Costas opened the show from inside the stadium by addressing the topic and immediately went to Tafoya, who delivered a detailed report of the facts. Costas then had a discussion with Collinsworth. The coverage then moved to the studio where Patrick and Dungy discussed the issue from a coach’s perspective. Later in the show, Costas delivered a comprehensive essay, which was followed by a news report from King and Florio. Sunday Night Football commentator Al Michaels, Collinsworth and Tafoya reported and commented on Hardy’s situation prior to kickoff, with Michaels and Collinsworth addressing it again during halftime.
Following are excerpts from Football Night’s coverage of the Greg Hardy situation:
Tafoya: “Greg Hardy’s conviction for domestic violence and its subsequent dismissal on appeal have been well documented, and on Thursday those charges were expunged from Hardy’s record. On Friday, evidentiary photos and reports from the police investigation into that alleged domestic violence incident surfaced publically. The NFL did review those photos, and other evidence, before suspending Hardy for 10 games, a suspension that was reduced to four games on appeal.
The Cowboys say they did not see the photos before they signed Hardy, and Friday night Jerry Jones issued a statement saying in part, ‘We as an organization take this very seriously. We do not condone domestic violence. We entered into the agreement with Greg fully understanding that there would be scrutiny and criticism. We have given Greg a second chance.’
Late yesterday, Hardy tweeted out his only statements since the photos were made public. The first read, ‘Just had to say I express my regret for what happened in past and I’m dedicated to being the best person & teammate that I can be.’ It was followed by another tweet reading, ‘But mostly I am grateful for the opportunity to play in NFL.’
Now we did request, through the Cowboys, to speak with Jerry Jones and Greg Hardy, but the team declined those requests. A Cowboys official told me, ‘Hardy’s future with the team is based on his commitment to participate in programs the team has in place.’ For the past 11 years the team has had on its staff Jacqueline Stephens, a mental health expert. But citing federal health laws, the team could not confirm whether Hardy has been in counseling. The official added, ‘If Hardy violates the NFL personal conduct policy again, he would be out the league for good.’ Hardy starts his fourth straight game for Dallas tonight.”
Costas to Collinsworth: “Neither one of us has any interest in defending Greg Hardy or mitigating the severity of his actions. On the other hand, for better or for worse, the judicial system ran its course in North Carolina. Commissioner Goodell took a crack at it by handing him a 10-game suspension on top of sitting out 15 games with pay a year ago. The NFL Players Association appealed, and it was reduced to four. Therefore, emotion aside, no matter how you may feel about him, he had the right to play again. And a team, if it was willing to take on the baggage, had the right to sign him. And here we are.”
Collinsworth: “Maybe it would be easier if Greg Hardy had handled it in the right way. If he hadn’t made the comments about Gisele Bundchen and some of the really stupid things that he said afterwards. If Jerry Jones hadn’t called him a leader, maybe this whole thing would feel better. But we’ve seen the NFL, they took their shot, and it got reduced to four games. We’ve seen the court system convict him, record expunged. All that’s really left now is for the NFL players, the players themselves to set the standard. And wouldn’t it feel good, just for once, to have the NFL players on this critical issue in the country, and in the world, to come out front and say we want stricter, not lesser, punishments for our players that are involved in domestic violence issues. To me, that’s the only possibility of moving this forward.”
Costas: “And just this week the outrage has kicked up understandably with the public release of the photos, but let’s understand, the district attorney and the judge in North Carolina saw those photos, Commissioner Goodell acted in part upon those photos, the NFL Players Association knew about the photos, and so did the arbitrator Henderson. So this is outrage after the fact. It’s already case closed.”
Collinsworth: “But why is Ray Rice not playing? Because he’s not as good of a player as Greg Hardy. Case closed. This is about winning football games in the National Football League. If he (Hardy) hadn’t signed with Dallas, he would have signed somewhere else.”
Dungy: “When I had these situations that faced me, I always looked at the individual person. And like Jerry Jones said, I believe in second chances. But you have to demonstrate to me that you deserve a second chance. And by Greg Hardy’s actions and his attitude, I don’t think he’s done that. We have seen the things that Cris (Collinsworth) talked about — the statements Hardy has made, the sideline outbursts, confrontations with coaches. No contrition. So, I would not want Greg Hardy on my team if he didn’t demonstrate that he was sorry about this.”
King: “It’s very, very clear that the Dallas Cowboys were not the only team interested in talking to Greg Hardy and perhaps signing him in the offseason. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers told me today that they wanted to talk to Hardy and interview him about his Carolina story. Hardy chose not to and signed with Dallas.”
Florio: “I’ve spoken to the NFL Players Association about this. Their role is to separate the conduct from the Collective Bargaining Agreement. They have a duty under federal law to pursue the appeal. So they don’t condone domestic violence, but they have to protect the rights of each and every player, including Greg Hardy in this case.”
BOB COSTAS’ PRE-GAME ESSAY ON GREG HARDY SITUATION
“Given the ongoing developments in the Greg Hardy case, we requested an interview with Jerry Jones, but the Cowboys owner and GM declined our request, standing by his statement from Friday after photographic evidence of the injuries inflicted upon Nicole Holder by Greg Hardy came to public attention.
Jones said, in part, that although the Cowboys did not see the photos prior to signing Hardy, they were aware that this was a serious incident, and they do not condone domestic violence. Still, they decided to sign Hardy. We also requested to speak with Hardy and that request was also denied.
Yesterday, Hardy Tweeted, ‘Just had to say I express my regret for what happened in the past and I’m Dedicated to being the best person & teammate that I can be…but mostly I am Grateful 4 the opportunity to play in NFL.’
So, what are we left with? The photos only provide more graphic proof of what we already knew — Greg Hardy is a bad guy who happens to be a good football player.
In what amounted to a preliminary hearing, a North Carolina judge found Hardy guilty, but before a subsequent jury trial, Hardy reached a settlement with Holder. She didn’t testify and prosecutors dropped the case. Then this past week, the initial conviction was expunged, meaning technically Hardy’s record is clean.
As for the NFL, over the past couple of years Commissioner Roger Goodell has received a good deal of criticism — some of it fair, some not. But after initially faltering in the Ray Rice case, Goodell vowed to get it right going forward. And in the Hardy case, he definitely tried to make good on that promise. As part of its own investigation, the league gained access to the photos the public is just now seeing, and Goodell suspended Hardy for 10 games at the start of this season, still not enough for some, but a significant step up from past punishments in domestic violence cases.
The (NFL) Players Association appealed on Hardy’s behalf, arguing in part that since Hardy’s offense occurred before the personal conduct policy was strengthened, his discipline should be based on the previous guidelines, and arbitrator Harold Henderson, citing those precedents, reduced the penalty to four games.
That’s on Henderson and the Players Association. They saw the pictures. They knew the severity of the offense, and they fought for a reduction nonetheless. Once Henderson ruled, under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, that was that, nothing else the Commissioner can do unless and until there is a next time with Greg Hardy.
So, you can shake your head at the perceived flaws of the judicial system. You can fault the Cowboys for signing Hardy in the first place, and Jerry Jones for calling him one of the real leaders of his team. You can root for Hardy to fail and for the rest of the league to show little interest in him if he becomes a free agent after this season.
But here’s what you can’t do this time, you can’t blame Roger Goodell. And you can’t deny this cold truth about big time sports — no matter what kind of guy he is, if a guy can play, there will always be a market somewhere for his services.”
PRIOR TO KICKOFF OF SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Michaels: “Jerry Jones (was) saying he’s giving him a second chance. Historically, they buttoned that up last year. He played for one game with Carolina then was suspended for the rest of the year, got paid. This year, he was originally suspended for 10 games that got reduced in arbitration before he played three weeks ago.”
Collinsworth: “Can we just before kickoff add that there’s a human element to this for us as well? We’re going to call the game. We’re going to do our job. We’re as uncomfortable as anybody is with what we’ve seen in those pictures and what we know of this court case. Unfortunately, Greg Hardy is going to be a big part of this story. We’ll call the game, we may do a little commentary at some point, but we’ll let it go at that.”
BEFORE SECOND-HALF KICKOFF
Michaels: “You heard it during the pre-game show. I thought you summed it up perfectly on Greg Hardy. Let’s put a period on it. We’re not ignoring it. We can’t belabor it, but the league did its job suspending him for 10 games. The court did its job and the Players Association did its job. Jerry Jones took a ton of flack when he said, ‘He’s one of our leaders.’ What did he mean by that – well, Jason Garrett said the other day that he’s a leader in the locker room and on the practice field. He certainly is not a leader by what he’s done or has been contended to have done. But I think one thing Cris, and you touched upon it in the pre-game show, too, I understand the Players Association has to advocate for its constituents, and they did. They got it reduced from 10 games to four. But at a certain point, you’ve got to read the room a little better than that.”
Collinsworth: “Yes, and let’s hope Greg Hardy is not a leader in anything right now in this country. But, you’re absolutely right. You’ve got people like a Jason Witten, whose very foundation, from first-hand knowledge, is about domestic violence. And, I think it’s time to take this out of the realm of collective bargaining. Just once, just once, I’d like to see the NFL players bond together and say we’re going to do something about this. These big, strong, NFL players are going to take a stand and say, ‘Enough. No more. Not on our watch. It’s not going to happen. If you’re going to be stepping into that world as players, we want the punishments to be harsh. We don’t want there to be these grand appeals. We want to make sure that the NFL and our players stand for something better than what Greg Hardy was a part of.’”
Following are highlights from the remainder of Football Night in America:
Harrison: “Every year we get to a point where we hand Green Bay the division. The NFC North is wide open. Minnesota is a very good team. Now they are tied for first place.”
Florio: “Teddy Bridgewater is in the concussion protocol after taking that elbow to the head and hitting his head on the ground. He missed the rest of the game, but I’m told he feels that he could have returned, if necessary, and he currently feels fine. Meanwhile, the NFL will take a look at that play for a potential fine or discipline on Monday morning.”
Harrison on CB Lamarcus Joyner’s hit on Teddy Bridgewater: “That’s a dirty hit. It’s a cheap shot right to the helmet.”
Harrison on Joyner’s hit on Bridgewater: “I wasn’t surprised because it happened to me in 2006. Bobby Wade came and chopped my knees and tore my knee up. I’m lying on the ground, and I look at Jeff Fisher and he’s smiling and laughing. So this is typical of Jeff Fisher type teams.”
Dungy: “Carolina made a statement today and said we’re a very good football team.”
Harrison: “A VERY good football team.”
Ward: “I’m jumping on that bandwagon. The Panthers are the real deal. Cam Newton is my leading candidate for MVP. He’s basically put this team on his back, considering they don’t have any big-name receivers. He’s really carried this team offensively.”
Ward on the Panthers defense: “That front seven is probably the best front seven in the league.”
Harrison on Saints defense: “They expect Drew Brees to throw seven touchdowns every week, and they have veteran players in that secondary that are not making an impact. Brandon Browner leads the league in penalties. Jairus Byrd is not the same Pro Bowl player that he was in Buffalo.”
King: “Major upheaval in the motor city. They have already fired the club president, the general manager, the offensive coordinator, and both line coaches. I think Jim Caldwell is going to be safe for the remainder of this season, but after that I doubt he will remain. Look for the team to first employ a head hunting firm. When you get a head hunting firm involved, it usually means that they are going to want to hire a general manager first and then a coach.”
Harrison: “They’re struggling on offense, they’re struggling on defense. They gave up a lot of big plays to an average wide-receiving core. They’re not creating the turnovers, the sacks, and then they’re arguing on the sideline. I just don’t see them getting better.”
Harrison: “Last week, Chris Harris, after beating the Packers, he’s talking about the Super Bowl. Don’t worry about the Super Bowl. Worry about game to game. Stay focused and stay humble. I think that showed today.”
Dungy: “The offensive line is still not creating holes in the running game. And Peyton Manning throwing an interception every week – that would be a concern for me.”
Dungy: “I was disappointed with the Raiders today. They had a big opportunity in that Wild Card race. All they had to do was stop Landry Jones on that last drive, and they didn’t.”
Harrison on DE Jason Pierre-Paul: “I look at JPP and he didn’t have any sacks, but he looked good. He looked like he was in shape. It looked like he didn’t have any issues with his hand. I like the fact that he was very active getting after the quarterback.”
Harrison: “I played with Matt Cassel and he’s struggling with his confidence. I know the temptation is to get the ball to Dez Bryant, but Jason Witten, I played against Jason Witten, he’s one of the best tight ends I ever played against. He’s a 10-time pro bowler. Get him the ball. Take the pressure off of Matt Cassel.”
BOB COSTAS WITH MALCOLM JENKINS
Jenkins on his altercation last season with Cowboys WR Dez Bryant: “I can only speak from my perspective. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. Whatever happened in that first game (between the Eagles and Cowboys last season) that he was upset about, it spilled over into the next game. I’m never one to back down from a challenge.”
Costas: “So he initiated it?”
Jenkins: “Yeah, pretty much. I didn’t back down either, but I enjoy that. We talk about the Eagles and Cowboys. It’s a game that has historic bad blood, and I don’t mind being a part of that rivalry. I love to compete, and he’s one of the best receivers in the league. These games are my opportunity to really put my helmet out there and see where I stand.”
Jenkins on his stylish outfits on game days: “Chip Kelly is more of a casual traveler, so I usually save my outfits for the day of the game. I think Deion (Sanders) said it, ‘you look good, you play good.’ As I prepare for a game, I definitely want to make sure I look good. It just puts me in the right frame of mind.”
Jenkins on the team’s renewed focus after their bye week: “We came back off of the bye, pretty much a whole week off, and you could see that the edge to certain people was a lot stronger than it usually is. I think some of the leaders started to show their colors, and really challenge some guys. The energy was really strong. You really don’t know until you step into a game. Practice is one thing, but we’ll see Sunday night. That’s the way to come off a bye. Get right into the limelight, the whole nation is watching, it’s a divisional game. You talk about fires being lit – you can’t hide in these types of games.”
–FOOTBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA–