Joel Thomas

NFC South Notes: Hardy, Saints, Bucs, Mariota

The upcoming jury trial for Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy will play a key role in his NFL future, writes the Charlotte Observer’s Joseph Person.

Hardy’s trial for misdemeanor domestic violence charges starts Monday, a month before the former Pro Bowler is scheduled to become a free agent. A District Court judge found Hardy guilty in July of assaulting and threatening to kill his girlfriend last May. If he is found guilty again, Hardy is likely to face at least a six-game suspension under the NFL’s personal conduct policy, which would be a significant blow to his value.

The 26-year-old appealed for the upcoming jury trial and the outcome could decide whether he cashes in during free agency or meets a weak response from the market. Hardy played just one game in 2014 as a result of being placed on the commissioner’s exempt list in September. That amounted to a paid suspension for Hardy, who collected $13.1MM on the strength of 11- and 15-sack seasons the two prior years.

Despite his past success, the Panthers are not expected to retain the five-year veteran, according to Person. Domestic violence issues are especially sensitive in today’s NFL, given the controversies Hardy, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson caused in 2014, and Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is cognizant of that. “I stand firmly against domestic violence, plain and simple,” said Richardson.

  • The Saints have hired a new running backs coach in Joel Thomas, tweets Sports Illustrated’s Thayer Evans. Thomas held the same position for the University of Arkansas since 2013.
  • With the hiring of Thomas, the Saints have two RBs coaches – the other being Dan Roushar. There is no official word on Roushar’s fate, though the Times-Picayune’s Katherine Terrell speculates that he could shift to tight ends coach, a position he held at Michigan State from 2011-12.’s Ian Rapoport tweeted in January that the Saints were parting ways with tight ends coach Terry Malone and wide receivers coach Henry Ellard. However, the team still hasn’t officially confirmed their respective statuses.
  • Former Buccaneers general manager and current ESPN analyst Mark Dominik believes Tampa Bay should use the No. 1 overall pick in April’s draft on Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Dominik, who was with the Bucs from 2009-13, told ESPN Radio’s Scott Van Pelt and Ryan Rusillo on Thursday that he favors Mariota over Florida State QB Jameis Winston, according to the Tampa Tribune’s Roy Cummings. “He’s super smart, he’s competitive, he’s got a good release, he processes quickly, he gets the ball out of his hand fast,” Dominik said of Mariota. “He does all these other things that are fine. Whereas with Winston, you sit there and you say you like everything about the player. And you do. But there’s that what-if concern that’s laying over him, and that’s hard to manage because that’s something you can’t control and that’s something that you have to hope or find out if you can trust him.”