Sliding Cowboys face question: Is Hardy circus worth it?
IRVING, Texas (AP) Greg Hardy hasn't played the part of a leader much since Dallas owner Jerry Jones described him that way following the polarizing defensive end's sideline tantrum during one of six consecutive losses.
He has mostly disappeared when the locker room is open to reporters since photos of the bruised ex-girlfriend from his domestic violence case were published online last week.
Even opposing players wonder if the scrutiny is getting to Hardy because they say he doesn't seem like the same player.
Despite Hardy leading the Cowboys in sacks (four) while playing in half as many games as most of his teammates, Jones and coach Jason Garrett now get asked whether it was worth it to sign him out of Carolina.
Then there's the issue of how much the free-for-all of criticism is weighing on a team that hasn't lost this many games in a row since 1989 going into Sunday at Tampa Bay.
''I don't weigh decisions that I make at a point later on and say, `Was it worth it?''' Jones said on his radio show this week. ''I'm looking ahead. We want to have our team in shape here to go down and do a good job against Tampa, and that's really the way I look at it.''
Jones called Hardy a leader despite the player's physical confrontation with special teams coach Rich Bisaccia after the Cowboys gave up what turned out to be the winning kickoff return for a touchdown in a loss to the New York Giants.
Before that, Hardy had to answer to Garrett twice, starting with an inappropriate tweet about the Sept. 11 attacks during the draft.
Next was a headline-grabbing comment about Tom Brady's wife the first time he talked to Cowboys reporters, the week of his Dallas debut against New England following a four-game suspension.
The photos from the Carolina incident had been out less than a week when Hardy changed his Twitter bio with what amounted to a declaration of innocence and a claim of discrimination in the case. After yet another talk with Garrett, the bio quickly changed.
And Garrett faced yet another round of questions - just as he did after the sixth straight loss last Sunday, 33-27 in overtime to Philadelphia.
''I think the biggest thing we try to do with any player is just address things when they come up and address them in-house,'' Garrett said. ''We deal with things inside these walls and then we move forward.''
Roger Staubach, who won two Super Bowls as quarterback for the Cowboys in the 1970s, has said he still rooted for the team, but not for Hardy, who was convicted by a North Carolina judge before the case was thrown out on appeal because the accuser couldn't be located to testify.
And tackle Lake Johnson suggested that he put harder blocks on Hardy and that the defensive end ''seemed out of it a little bit.''
Hardy never appeared in the locker room when it was open to reporters.
''I think he's going through, it's a tough time,'' defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. ''He's got to have that ability to stay focused and in the present.''
The losing streak is weighing on the Cowboys (2-6) as well, the strongest evidence so far coming Thursday when All-Pro receiver Dez Bryant went on profanity-laced rant aimed at reporters.
One of them interrupted the media session for 13th-year tight end Jason Witten, who tried to calm Bryant.
''Two and six is just tough,'' Witten said. ''It's tough when you're in those situations.''
The Cowboys signed Hardy to an incentive-laded one-year contract worth $13.1 million, thinking he would be a key addition to a team with Super Bowl aspirations a year after winning the NFC East.
But Bryant went down with a broken foot in the opener, and Romo was lost a week later with a broken collarbone. Dallas has lost all six games without Romo, who is eligible to return next week at Miami.
If the losses keep coming, so will the questions about whether Hardy belongs on the roster - after Jones also declared following the New York episode that he was interested in signing the 27-year-old to a long-term contract.
''The real leaders are really outstanding football players,'' Jones said. ''And, so, they get it done and through that. They earn a great deal of respect by their teammates. And, so, my view is totally through the eyes of within the team, what the team thinks.''
Jeremy Mincey, the oldest player on Dallas' defensive line, says the support is there.
''He's been great,'' Mincey said. ''He's been doing a good job. And he's been a good teammate. That's key, and that's what goes on in this locker room. And that's what we do know.''
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