Hardy’s dubious NFL beginning isn’t reason to pass judgment

By Connor Byrne  |   Wednesday, May 14, 2008  |  Comments( 122 )

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When Buffalo selected wide receiver James Hardy in the second round of last month's NFL draft, the focus of Bills fans regarding the former Indiana University standout was twofold. First, they were excited to see their team acquire a 6-foot-5, 217-pounder to complement No. 1 wideout Lee Evans in a receiving corps that was the league's smallest last season. The secondary focus was less optimistic, though, as it centered on Hardy's so-called character concerns.

It can be argued that one of the reasons Hardy, who totaled outstanding numbers in three seasons with the Hoosiers (191 catches, 36 touchdowns), fell to the 41st pick in the draft is because of a domestic dispute he was involved in two years ago.

"Hardy was arrested May 19 after Ft. Wayne police responded to a 911 call at 3509 S. Hanna Street at 5:40 p.m. On the call, dispatchers reportedly could hear profanity and screaming before the caller hung up. When police later arrived at the scene, Hardy’s girlfriend was found sitting across the street from the house crying, and her shirt was reportedly torn and she had marks on the side and back of her neck," read a Scout.com article in 2006.

Eventually, the charges were dropped after Hardy completed a six-month pre-trial diversion program and partook in anger management counseling. Despite that, there were red flags regarding Hardy's character entering the NFL, and they reared their head again earlier this week.

This past Tuesday, Hardy was accused of pulling a gun on his father during an incident that took place last Sunday. Hardy's father later claimed his son didn't actually do anything that merited a Ft. Wayne police presence, though, despite the fact they were called to the scene at an area home.

“My son and I, our relationship is fine," said James W. Hardy II, who spent much of his son's childhood in prison for forgery, armed robbery and cocaine distribution.

Hardy wasn't arrested for supposedly waving the gun at his father, and no charges will be filed. Additionally, the 22-year-old has a permit for the weapon that runs through 2011. Nevertheless, many turned-off Bills fans are prematurely rushing to judgment because of Hardy's actions.

"I wish [the Bills] didn't draft him," said one Buffalo-area sports radio personality Tuesday.

For his part, Hardy -- who, since being drafted, said and did all the rights things until last weekend -- apologized to Bills fans.

"I do understand that this opportunity with me being drafted by the Buffalo Bills is a blessing and a privilege and not a right. So I ask that my fans just continue to keep me in your prayers and I will continue to strive to be the best I can be on and off the field," read Hardy's official statement.

Meanwhile, the Bills view the matter as closed.

"We have spoken to law enforcement officials and they have informed us that they looked into this and have no plans to pursue the matter any further. We also spoke to James last night and will continue to speak with him, but indications are that this matter has been resolved," said the organization.

Hardy is obviously off to a dubious beginning in the pros -- particularly because he plays for a fan base that greatly values high-character players -- but he certainly has no business being vilified for this particular mistake. The bottom line is that no charges were filed for the receiver's Mother's Day feud with his father, so Hardy -- whose rough childhood is a legitimate excuse for his anger issues -- should be given the benefit of the doubt. If he finds his name in the police blotter again, though, Bills loyalists would then have more reason to pass judgment against Hardy.

For now, however, there isn't any evidence available to accuse Hardy of wrongdoing. Because of that, simply consider this early turbulence in what could potentially be a terrific NFL career.

*E-mail: cbyrne@realfootball365.com
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CommentsComments: 122  |  Sign Up  View all comments
07:33 AM
Who knows what the future holds for James Hardy? Let's just say there is another red flag being raised after he pulled a gun on...
07:44 AM
I agree and I'm normally the last guy to make excuses for pro athletes anti-social behavior. Where for most of us flashing a gun...
07:49 AM
Yes, it appears that Hardy has not had a father much of the time and it is safe to say he has had some anger issues. It is a good...
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