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Cowboys’ Hardy still center of controversy

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IRVING, Texas — As the Dallas Cowboys continue to free fall with a four-game losing streak, the task of keeping things together inside the locker room is a tough one with defensive end Greg Hardy causing constant commotion.

His sideline antics in Sunday’s 27-20 loss to the New York Giants caused a firestorm across the NFL and social media.

Hardy blew up on the sideline after the Giants’ Dwayne Harris returned a kickoff for a touchdown to give the Giants a 27-20 lead late in Sunday’s game. Hardy ran onto the field for the PAT, waving his arms, encouraging Giants fans to get louder.

After the extra point, Hardy broke up the special-teams huddle. He pushed, shoved and yelled at teammates getting ready for the ensuing kickoff before slapping at a clipboard special-teams coach Rich Bisaccia held. Bisaccia shoved Hardy out of the huddle.

The assistant head coach said after the game he had no issue with Hardy other than it “was just not the right time.”

Hardy’s rant continued down the sideline, with several teammates, including Dez Bryant, Tyrone Crawford, Nick Hayden and DeMarcus Lawrence, seemingly attempting to calm Hardy.

Coach Jason Garrett acknowledged the Cowboys talked to Hardy about his actions but said the team would not discipline the defensive end.

“A lot of people outside this building seem to be making more of this than anybody inside this building is,” Garrett said Monday. “We ask our guys to come to work every day and practice hard, and we ask them to play hard on Sunday and play together. If sometimes something happens where we have to coach them back into getting focused on the task at hand, that’s our job as coaches to do that. We have guys who are well intended on this team.

“We have guys who work hard individually but work hard also for the team to make it the best team we can make it. The guys who work the hardest and the guys who are the most productive have the most influence on the team, and that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing. It’s a meritocracy that way.

“We’ll keep working hard. Greg will keep working hard. If Greg or anybody else kind of gets out of bounds a little bit or loses their focus a little bit, what we’ll do is try to bring them right back in. That’s really what we’ll do. That’s how we’ll handle those situations going forward.”

Hardy had no comment after the game.

But players, coaches and even owner Jerry Jones came to Hardy’s defense. And executive vice president Stephen Jones, during his weekly radio show Monday, compared Hardy’s competitiveness to Michael Irvin, Bryant and Charles Haley.

Stephen Jones also said the Cowboys would consider a long-term deal with Hardy. Hardy signed a one-year, incentive-laden deal worth as much as $13 million with the Cowboys during the offseason. He becomes a free agent after this season.

“Absolutely. Very much a possibility,” Stephen Jones said “And he’s done everything since he’s been with us in a good way. I know he’ll continue to improve, because he wants to be respected, and he wants to be a guy who is involved in the community. And I think that will come for him.”

Hardy has three sacks and six quarterback hits in the two games since returning from a four-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the league. But his off-field behavior has overshadowed his play.

This marks at least the third time the Cowboys have had to talk to Hardy: He tweeted a tasteless joke about the Twin Towers during the draft; and earlier this month, during his first media availability in Dallas, Hardy joked about Tom Brady’s supermodel wife, Gisele Bundchen, and talked about returning to the field with “guns blazing” after more than a year away from football.

“We talked about the value of having passion and emotion and enthusiasm for the game,” Garrett said of his most recent conversation with Hardy. “Greg and I talked about how you can channel that better. What he was trying to do was encourage the guys who were going out on special teams.

“What happened in that situation was coach Bisaccia was trying to get the team ready to go play on special teams. Some of the best players I’ve been around, going all the way back to when I was playing in this league, guys who were championship players on teams that played for this franchise were guys who encouraged their teammates; they encouraged their guys in the same unit; they encouraged the guys across units.

“I think about Michael Irvin. He was probably as good as anybody I’ve seen at that. There’s a lot of emotion that goes into this game and that’s what we want. What we need to do is have our players channel that emotion, so we talked to Greg specifically about ‘OK, we get it, we understand what you’re trying to do, but coach Bisaccia is trying to get that special-teams unit ready to go play,’ so he kind of moved out of the huddle and we moved on. It was not a big deal from anybody inside our football team and inside this building.”

REPORT CARD VS. GIANTS

–PASSING OFFENSE: F. Matt Cassel threw three interceptions and had one returned for a touchdown in a seven-point loss. Cassel is an improvement from Brandon Weeden but you can’t win with turnovers and certainly not three. Wide receiver Terrance Williams didn’t help Cassel with poor routes and not fighting hard enough to prevent a pick six.

–RUSH OFFENSE: A. The Cowboys rushed 41 times for 233 yards and controlled the clock. Darren McFadden had 29 carries for 152 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver Lucky Whitehead had 35 yards on four reverses.

–PASS DEFENSE: B. Eli Manning only passed for 170 yards and had no touchdowns. Wide receiver Odell Beckham was held in check with four catches for 35 yards. The Cowboys gave up two big plays in the passing game, a 68-yard catch by Reuben Randle and a 43-yarder by Dwayne Harris.

–RUN DEFENSE: D. The Cowboys gave up 132 yards on 25 carries. Shane Vereen had 56 yards on four carries. Orleans Darkwa had eight carries for 48 yards and a touchdown. Linebacker Sean Lee and Rolando McClain had subpar performances.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: F. The Cowboys gave up a 100-yard, game-winning kickoff return for a touchdown to former Cowboys returner Dwayne Harris, who went untouched. That can’t happen with the game on the line. Cole Beasley killed the final comeback hopes with a muffed punt.

COACHING: D. The Cowboys continue to be criticized for how they handle volatile defensive end Greg Hardy. That wasn’t a pretty sight when he went ballistic on the sideline supposedly in an attempt to fire the team up. The Cowboys have lost four straight games for the first time since Jason Garrett took over as head coach in 2010.


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