With all the controversy surrounding the Richmond Roughriders signing of former Carolina Panther/Dallas Cowboy DE Greg Hardy, I was granted the privilege of interviewing him. A local columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch Newspaper had said the signing of Hardy was not just a risk for the Roughriders, but a risk to all of Richmond. While Hardy does have a checkered past documented all the way back to his college days, it’s not like the guy is Charles Manson. He had both domestic violence and drug convictions against him, which were later expunged from his record as well as a ten game NFL suspension rescinded. Say what you will about the legal system, but Roger Goodell never backtracks on a suspension even when he knows he’s in the wrong. I’m not suggesting Hardy is innocent, on the other hand, he isn’t exactly King Kong on a rampage either. We spoke for about five minutes and below is the edited transcript.
How did you make contact with the Richmond Roughriders?
I was with (Roughriders Player/Personnel Director) Andrew Germann at a charity event, and we were talking about how I wished I could play the game that I love and be around the sport. So he asked me if I wanted the opportunity, and I said yeah, I’d love to. I’ve been away from the game a long time.
There are a lot of people who are doubters, what would you say to them?
I’m not going to let doubters prevent me from having the opportunity. I wouldn’t have been where I was in the first place if I listened to people who doubted me and didn’t want me around. Honestly, I’m just thinking about making myself better as a person and surrounding myself with better people than I had before in my life. Making a plan to do whatever makes me happy because I feel like that’s what I’m striving for. I want to be happy and to be around something I can excel at. I’m not saying this is a comeback move because I’m beginning to excel at mixed martial arts right now, but any opportunity to step on the field and play with a team and be around guys who want to win, I’m not going to listen to any doubters, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.
So then this isn’t a stepping stone to getting back into the NFL?
I’m going to let this be whatever it is. They’ll never quote me saying I don’t want to go back to the NFL, but this is a chance to play. It’s arena ball, and it’s a platform, not a gigantic platform like the NFL, but it’s a chance to play. It’s what I’m best at and if the guys in the NFL see that and want to give me the opportunity, then I’m all for it. I’m a professional, and I’m going to work my behind off wherever I am.
Are you staying in Richmond or coming in and out for games?
Oh, I’m staying in Richmond. I’m going to be there for the team, and I’m leaving the past behind.
How’s the MMA thing working out? You have two wins already, don’t you?
Yes sir, and I’m going to win this upcoming fight. I have the one before training camp and another for right after the season.
Only a handful of NFL players have played arena ball after having been in the NFL. T.O. did it and a few others, but I can’t remember someone as young as you are playing at this level. I think you could be a force in the arena.
I’ll be a force wherever I play (laughter). Since I’m not chasing the NFL Hall of Fame dream, maybe the arena league has a Hall of Fame, I could get into?
If the buzz around town is telling us anything, it’s that Hardy is a polarizing figure. His track record on the field is, as he implies, Hall of Fame quality, but it’s his off the field issues which keep him from being a fan favorite. The conventional wisdom is that Roughriders owner Gregg Fornario is taking a risk bringing in a player with as much proven volatility as Hardy has shown in the past. The Riders do have a certain amount of risk associated with this move. If Hardy is arrested for any reason, it could become a potential PR nightmare. On the other hand, it’s Hardy himself who’s taking the biggest risk. While it’s a foregone conclusion, he’ll be one of the best players in all of arena/indoor football, there's no certainty he will make it back to the NFL. He could see all of this derailed by injury, poor play, misconduct, or any other number of unseen landmines waiting to explode if he so much as gets one toe out of line. If he messes up, Fornario will cut him without a second thought, but if he doesn’t, the Riders have the best player in the league, and Hardy just may have a chance to get back to the NFL. One way or the other, it’s going to be interesting to see someone with an NFL HOF pedigree playing for an arena football team in the old Richmond Coliseum.