IRVING, Texas (AP) — Greg Hardy's suspension for his role in a domestic violence case was reduced from 10 games to four Friday and his agent said the Dallas defensive end might not be finished fighting the punishment.
Arbitrator Harold Henderson, who heard Hardy's appeal, upheld NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's decision to suspend Hardy. But he said the length was "simply too much" since the league had decided last year that suspensions in domestic cases would start at six games.
Hardy missed all but one game last season with Carolina, but was paid his $13 million salary while on the commissioner's exempt list. Goodell suspended Hardy in April after the league was allowed to view evidence from a domestic violence trial that led to a conviction by a judge in North Carolina last year. The conviction was thrown out when the accuser, Nicole Holder, couldn't be located to testify in Hardy's appeal.
Under the latest ruling, Hardy's debut for the Cowboys would be against Super Bowl champion New England on Oct. 11. He joined Dallas on a one-year, $13.1 million deal that's heavily based on incentives.
"We are looking forward to the start of the season and having Greg be a part of the team," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said after the ruling was announced.
Drew Rosenhaus, Hardy's agent, said he would discuss Henderson's ruling with his client, lawyers and the NFL Players Association, adding that they were "still considering further legal action."
Goodell suspended Hardy after the NFL saw photos and other evidence that led the league to conclude the 26-year-old player roughed up Holder in his apartment in May 2014. The league had to sue North Carolina prosecutors for access to some material, eventually reaching a settlement with them.
"The egregious conduct exhibited here is indefensible in the NFL," Henderson wrote in his ruling. "However, 10 games is simply too much, in my view, of an increase over prior cases without notice such as was done last year, when the 'baseline' for discipline in domestic violence or sexual assault cases was announced as a six-game suspension."
Hardy had 26 sacks in his last two full seasons with the Carolina Panthers. He tied a franchise record with 15 in 2013. He will be able to participate in training camp, which starts July 30 in Oxnard, California. He can also play in all four preseason games.
Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson successfully challenged Henderson, a former NFL executive, in federal court over his suspension related to a child abuse case in Texas. U.S. District Judge David Doty ruled in February that the league could not retroactively apply the tougher standards of the six-game ban.
The league announced the tougher standard last August after widespread criticism over its handling of former Baltimore running back Ray Rice's domestic violence case. The incident involving Hardy happened three months earlier.
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