Panthers expect to get sick Hardy back for Arizona

The Panthers are hoping flamboyant defensive end Greg Hardy can

get healthy before Sunday and build on the momentum he helped

create before the bye week.

Hardy, the NFC’s defensive Player of the Week in week three, has

missed the last two days of practice with an illness. Panthers

coach Ron Rivera said he expects Hardy will return to practice

Friday and make the trip to Arizona to face the Cardinals on

Sunday.

”He did see the doctor. Good report,” Rivera said. ”They just

want him to get a little bit of rest and I do expect him back

(Friday) morning. So I do look forward to seeing Greg.”

Carson Palmer probably doesn’t.

The Cardinals quarterback knows firsthand the pain Hardy is

capable of inflicting on the football field when he takes on the

game day persona of ”the Kraken,” a mythical sea creature.

While playing for the Oakland Raiders last December, Palmer set

up outside the pocket to throw a pass against the Panthers when he

took a vicious shot from Hardy that ended his day – and his season.

Palmer suffered cracked ribs and a bruised lung on a hit he said

he’ll never forget.

Hardy was flagged 15 yards for unnecessary roughness, but Palmer

said this week that officials got the call wrong.

”He got me good,” Palmer said. ”(But) I gave him an

opportunity to get me, and I don’t think it should have been

flagged. I think those kinds of hits now, just because they look

pretty gruesome, get flagged. But it was a legal hit, and my own

fault for not getting rid of the football.”

Palmer said all he remembers from the hit is watching the replay

on the stadium scoreboard as he lay on the ground in agony.

”It looked good for him, bad for me,” Palmer said.

The normally vocal Hardy – who paints his face and ”turns into

a whole different person on game day” according to Panthers

linebacker Luke Kuechly – was unavailable for interviews this week

because of his illness.

Palmer said Hardy reminds him of Julius Peppers, who played

eight seasons for the Panthers before joining the Chicago Bears in

2009.

”He’s very quick, very powerful,” Palmer said of 6-foot-4,

276-pound Hardy. ”I actually saw him on tape running down and

almost catching (Bills running back) C.J. Spiller on a long run. He

was running pretty much stride-for-stride with him downfield. With

that combination of athleticism, size and speed, that’s the way

Julius Peppers looked when he was playing in Carolina.”

It’s pretty clear Hardy is playing himself into a big contract

after the season when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Hardy had 11 sacks in a breakout season a year ago and continues

to step up his play this year, not only as a pass rusher but as a

run defender.

Hardy has shown he can do it all.

Against the Giants, he single handedly set the tone in

Carolina’s 38-0 victory by stuffing the run early and sacking Eli

Manning three times in the first half. He finished with eight

tackles.

”He played lights out,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said.

”That whole front had I think had six sacks in the first fifteen

plays or more? It was extremely impressive – and a little bit

scary.”

The outspoken Hardy said before the season his goal was to

record 50 sacks this year.

Hardy will have a chance to improve on his sack total this

Sunday when he’s lined up against Cardinals left tackle Bradley

Sowell, a second-year undrafted rookie from Mississippi. Sowell

will make his first NFL start after the Cardinals traded veteran

tackle Levi Brown to Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

”He was my college teammate for three years,” Sowell said of

Hardy. ”I’ve been trying to text him. I said `Let me keep my job

for at least one week.””

AP Sports Writer Bob Baum in Phoenix contributed to this

report.

AP NFL website www.pro32.ap.org

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