NFL

Jason Witten Could Be The Man Who Saves Greg Hardy’s Career

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Domestic violence is once again at the forefront of NFL headlines.

Harsh criticism again hangs over the Dallas Cowboys organization after they signed defensive end Greg Hardy earlier this year. The scrutiny was intensified after photos were released last week showing the aftermath of the domestic violence case between Hardy and his then girlfriend, Nicole Holder.

His previous employer, the Carolina Panthers, decided to let Hardy test free agency, after becoming wary of signing him to a long-term deal. Their reluctance to pursue and long-term deal with Hardy saved them plenty of money. The franchise tag he received emptied their pockets for $13.1 million, but that total would have been peanuts compared to a long-term contract.

Hardy spent 15 games last year on the commissioner’s exempt list after being accused of domestic violence in Charlotte. A North Carolina judge convicted Hardy of assaulting Holder, but Hardy appealed the case and it was dismissed in February. (She reportedly reached an out-of-court financial settlement with Hardy.)

The Cowboys almost certainly expected Hardy to be suspended when they signed him. The original 10-game suspension was reduced to four games by arbitrator Harold Henderson in July for his latest incident with Holder.

Four games may have been enough if the photos weren’t released. Since then the scrutiny has ramped up the momentum to pursue Hardy like he does opposing quarterbacks.

Critics of Hardy that range from NFL players to congressman are sharing their disgust over his antics.

Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce said after the Week 9 win over Cowboys his feelings on lining up against Hardy. “There are three (types) of people I have zero respect for in this world, said Kelce. “It’s people who hit women, people who molest children, and rapists. I’m glad (Hardy) didn’t have a good day. I don’t know. I think it’s a joke a guy like that is able to play this quickly.”

Texas Republican Congressman Michael Burgess addressed his displeasure with seeing Hardy with the silver helmet on his cranium.

“These photos are disturbing,” said Burgees in his press release. “I want the NFL and the Players Association to explain why it’s acceptable for Greg Hardy to still be playing. The Dallas Cowboys pride themselves on being ‘America’s Team,’ and they have an obligation to their fans, players, and families to conduct themselves with the highest professional integrity. The employment of this individual is sending the absolute wrong message on domestic violence.”

Plenty of advocates are rising up against Hardy, but one voice who may have the most impact on the issue sits in the same locker room.

It is Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten.

Witten has done nothing short of being a God-send to victims of domestic violence. Through his own charitable foundations, Witten has launched numerous outreach programs and funded several building projects in Texas and his native Tennessee that are focused on preventing domestic violence.

Witten shared on an E:60 (ESPN) feature last year, his long history of domestic violence. He admitted to growing up in an abusive environment that eventually led to his mother and brothers leaving his father at the young age of 11 years old.

His resounding commitment to erase domestic violence leaves him as one of the most prudent voices on the issue and more importantly his teammate (Hardy).

“I think more than anything I think everybody knows (I’m against) domestic violence,” said Witten via ESPN.com.  “That’s unwavering. That’s something that I lived, my family lived. But that guy is a teammate of mine, so I think you have to look at it from that standpoint. As coach (Jason) Garrett says, it’s our job to invite those guys in and create a standard of how we do things. I think he’s done a great job since he’s been here. It’s not my job to decide who comes in. I’m a tight end. But I’ve been really pleased how he’s approached it and how he goes to work and what kind of teammate he’s been. The day he got suspended, the next day he’s in there working out, so I think that’s kind of the mentality he has, what kind of work ethic (he has) and what he’s trying to prove in Dallas.”

Will Hardy and Witten coexist?

Absolutely, as long as another incident doesn’t surface while he’s in the city of Dallas playing for the Cowboys. If Hardy is receptive towards the knowledge Witten possesses on the subject. It is possible that he is in the best place possible to succeed, both on and off the field.

Quickly viewing the two personalities and their backgrounds, it may appear a rift may ensue. Witten is about building the man back up and not tearing him down. He is committed to rehabilitating men and erasing the demons that cause their inability not to abuse women and children when rage engulfs their decision making.

While it may seem like bringing Hardy on board would cause division in the locker room, it may allow a troubled individual to be mentored by a man with an understanding and commitment to preventing domestic violence.

Hopefully the next E:60 feature reveals a renewed and remorseful Greg Hardy. A man who attributes himself being in a better state of mind because of No. 82 and now like Witten, helps aid men and women in domestic abuse.


About Bo Marchionte

Bo Marchionte

Bo Marchionte is an NFL writer for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade. His background includes being staff for the Texas vs. The Nation All-Star game as a talent evaluator for player personnel along with an internship scouting with the Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers for the Canadian Football League. Bo’s draft background includes working for the NFL Draft Bible and currently owns and operates College2Pro.com. He has done radio spots on NBC, Fox Sports and ESPN and their affiliates in different markets around the country. Bo covers the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Panthers along with other colleges in the northeast.