The NFL has reduced Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy's suspension from 10 games to four, the league announced Friday.
Hardy, who signed with the Cowboys this offseason, was originally suspended 10 games due to an arrest on domestic-abuse charges. A two-month investigation by the NFL "determined that there was sufficient credible evidence that Hardy engaged in conduct that violated NFL policies in multiple respects and with aggravating circumstances."
And now, six weeks later, Harold Henderson, who was appointed by Roger Goodell to hear Hardy's appeal, has reduced it to four games. Henderson, a former NFL labor executive, also heard Adrian Peterson's appeal of his suspension. The NFLPA originally objected to Henderson's appointment because he wasn't deemed a neutral or independent arbitrator. It's why some observers were surprised by Friday's news.
I'm surprised the NFL knocked six games off Greg Hardy's suspension. I suspect the league thinks it would lose if Hardy took it to court.— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) July 10, 2015
NFL arbitrator Harold Henderson was chastised by federal court judge after upholding Peterson suspension. Significant reduction here.— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) July 10, 2015
Henderson explained his decision in a statement.
"After consideration of all the record evidence and arguments, I conclude that the Commissioner acted within his authority and properly exercised his discretion in finding that Hardy violated the NFL Personal Conduct Policy," Henderson said.
"I find that the conduct of Hardy clearly violates the letter and spirit of any version of the PCP since its inception, and of the NFL Constitution and Bylaws long before then. The egregious conduct exhibited here is indefensible in the NFL. 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. Therefore, the discipline of Mr. Hardy hereby is modified to a suspension of four games; all other terms of the discipline letter remain in place."
Now Hardy is set to return on Oct. 11 when the Cowboys face the Patriots. (Good one, NFL. Have Hardy make his debut against the team that has their own appeal pending with Tom Brady and the Deflategate melodrama.)
There's more good news for Hardy: As CBSSports.com's John Breech noted in March, a large portion of Hardy's contract is going to be paid out in "per-game" roster bonuses. For every regular-season game Hardy's on the Cowboys active roster this year, he'll make $578,125. With the suspension reduced to four games, Hardy is now only out $2,312,500 instead of $5,781,250. And if Hardy reaches 14 sacks, which becomes much more likely, he'll earn a $1.8 million bonus.
This is also good news for the Cowboys' defense (duh), which ranked 22nd in the NFL last season, according to Football Outsiders. The team also added cornerback Byron Jones (first round) and rush linebacker Randy Gregory (second round) in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Of course, the appeals process may not be over.
Which means there's a chance Hardy's suspension could be reduced further.