For the briefest moment, Greg Hardy stole the attention from the Cowboys’ rookie minicamp last weekend.
The controversial defensive end hasn’t spoken publicly since he signed in Dallas during free agency, but he made a rare appearance Friday during the rookies’ morning workout. It was a brief sighting, but Hardy and defensive linemate Nick Hayden came out to the Valley Ranch practice fields to run wind sprints.
The Cowboys re-signed Hayden the same week they added Hardy, but the two actually have a longer history than that. Hayden was a sixth-round draft pick by the Carolina Panthers in 2008, while the franchise drafted Hardy in the sixth round in 2010.
The two played one season together, in 2010, with Hayden logging 31 tackles and a sack in 10 starts, while Hardy managed 26 tackles and three sacks in 15 appearances.
Hayden said Friday afternoon that Hardy’s athleticism as a rookie left a lasting impression on him.
"The greatest thing I remember from Greg â the craziest thing I’ve seen, he was about 290, and he was a gunner on punt team," Hayden said. "They put him out there as a gunner when I was in Carolina with him. He ran down there, beat the guy and made the tackle, and I’m like ‘Wow.’ You don’t see many 290 guys play gunner, run down and beat guys on punts. It was really impressive."
He added: "That’s what he’s going to bring to the team â his heart, his effort and his ability to pass rush."
Hardy is currently appealing a 10-game suspension from the NFL for violating its personal conduct policy, stemming from the 2014 incident that saw him charged with assaulting his then-girlfriend, only to have those charges dismissed earlier this spring.
Last week, Brandon Carr said Hardy’s intensity and effort during the Cowboys’ offseason workout program were contagious â a sentiment Hayden agreed with.
"He’s an intense kind of guy, he just comes to work every day," Hayden said. "That’s the kind of guys we want here â blue collar guys who are just willing to work and give it their all."
The Cowboys have put a lot of effort into upgrading their defensive ends after fielding a lackluster pass rush in 2014. In addition to signing Hardy, they spent their second and fifth-round draft picks on defensive ends Randy Gregory and Ryan Russell.
The club hasn’t spent nearly the same amount of resources on the defensive tackle spot â which bodes well for Hayden’s prospects this season.
"Whatever they want to do, I’m always here and I’m going to work my butt off and prove that I’m supposed to be here and be on the field," he said. "It doesn’t really bother me, and whatever happens, happens."