SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- After a tumultuous offseason that included the surprise release of the franchise's most popular and perhaps best player ever in wide receiver Steve Smith, the Carolina Panthers returned to work Thursday. But football still wasn't the main storyline.
While players and staff reported for the start of training camp, general manager Dave Gettleman addressed the elephant in the new Bank of America Stadium media room.
"Obviously what's happened with Greg (Hardy) is very concerning and very disappointing. These are very serious allegations," Gettleman said. "At the same time, we also respect the fact that Greg has appealed the decision and is entitled to a jury trial."
Hardy, the Panthers' 25-year-old star defensive end, was found guilty of communicating threats and assaulting his ex-girlfriend during a domestic violence trial last week. That ruling was handed down by a judge, and in North Carolina, defendants are allowed to ask for a jury trial after such a decision. Hardy was granted an appeal, which will likely not be heard until after the upcoming season.
The Panthers could punish Hardy with a suspension of up to four games, but the NFL highly discourages teams from taking action themselves, preferring to handle most legal matters itself.
"We have to abide by the league's conduct policy," Gettleman said. "It's in the courts and we have to respect that process. We just have to."
The league usually waits out legal matters, and because Hardy's case likely won't be complete until 2015, he heads into the new season without much threat of suspension.
Coach Ron Rivera was adamant he wouldn't comment on Hardy or if he'll address the team about the situation, instead deferring all questions to his boss. And Gettleman is deferring to the NFL.
"It appears that the league is going to let the entire process play out," Gettleman said. "Again, it's in the courts. That's all I can say."