According to TMZ Sports, defensive end Greg Hardy has at least one supporter in the Carolina Panthers' locker room. Wide receiver Jericho Cotchery recently said that he believes he deserves a second chance:
"I can't speak for everybody, but I would welcome him back with open arms," Cotchery says ... "I view his situation from a biblical standpoint and I believe in the Good Book and feel he should be given a second chance."
Cotchery is an 11-year veteran starting his career with the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers. He joined the Panthers last offseason and finished the year third on the team in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns.
Hardy was charged with assault last June and only played the first game of the season after being placed on the Commissioner Exempt list prior to Week 3 due to the arrest. Those charges were dismissed Monday when his accuser did not appear at the trial.
The biggest hurdle for Hardy to return never seemed to come from the locker room. Cornerback Josh Norman also spoke out in support of Hardy at the end of the season. He said Hardy would look forward to a chance to return to Carolina, according to ESPN’s David Newton:
"His heart is in Carolina," Norman said. "I had a talk with him. He wants to be here. He don't want to go nowhere else. He wants to be in Carolina. He even told me he would play for free. That's what he told me verbatim out of his mouth."
The group Hardy would have to win over, if he wanted to return to the Panthers, would be ownership and the front office. There is certainly some skepticism on their part after committing over $13 million in 2014 when they used the franchise tag last offseason on the star pass rusher.
Would owner Jerry Richardson and GM Dave Gettleman be willing to give Hardy a substantial contract, especially considering he could still face discipline from the league in the form of suspended games? It is hard to imagine that they would jump at the opportunity considering the fact they invested so much a season ago with nothing to show for it.