Hardy was limited in the second half. He missed the first drive of the third quarter because of an asthma attack.
"Had it my whole life," Hardy said of asthma.
He said he keeps an inhaler with him, and when he returned to the sideline he was seen taking in oxygen.
"He had a little breathing treatment he was having to get," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said after the game. "Other than that he's obviously playing hard out there and he needed to get that taken care of, but then came back out. As I said, you saw him, flip on the tape and watch him. Guys are playing hard."
Hardy spent the first five years of his career with the Panthers. He recorded 27 sacks in his final 32 games that he played for them, but also missed 15 games last season, spending the final 14 on the commissioner's exempt list as a result of a domestic violence arrest in the spring of 2014.
While he said the Panthers were a "nameless, faceless opponent" after last week's game against the Miami Dolphins, he hugged teammates and former coach Ron Rivera before the game. After the game he spoke with several former teammates and was carrying the jersey of a Panther into the locker room after the game.
How much did Hardy want to get a hit on Cam Newton?
"Wanted to win," Hardy said. "Honestly, being the competitors we are, if it came down to him hitting me, I'm sure he would be excited about that if I got in the way. That's what makes Carolina great. It's what's going to make us great because we're worried about the next game and getting a win. Period."
ARLINGTON, Texas -- As Tony Romo stood at the podium Thursday night after the Dallas Cowboys' 33-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers, it was hard to tell what was hurting more: his left collarbone or his ego.
The Cowboys' season took a turn for the worse Thursday when Romo suffered his second left-collarbone injury of the season, but it probably veered off course before Thomas Davis drove Romo's shoulder into the artificial turf on the final play of the third quarter.
Kuechly's second interception led to a Panthers field goal.
It was 30-6 by the time Romo got hurt, so a comeback was almost impossible.
Just five days ago, the Cowboys' locker room was full of hope after their 24-14 win against the Miami Dolphins ended a seven-game losing streak. Their leader, Romo, was back, and things would only get better.
But they wouldn't.
And now they might be worse.
"There are so many subtle things that come up when you see different things and you just have to get there," said Romo, who completed 11 of 21 passes for 106 yards before the injury. "I wasn't quite there yet. It was going to take a little bit of time. You hope you can win games until you get that back, but it's just disappointing I wasn't able to do that and played poor today. I really put our team in a hole. That was the difference in the ballgame, really."
When Romo is at his best, he sees things most quarterbacks can't.
On Coleman's interception, he was trying to squeeze a throw to Jason Witten. On Kuechly's first interception, he was trying to find Terrance Williams on a crossing route, but Kuechly was sitting in the hole. On the third, Romo tried to find Witten down the seam with Kuechly trailing by a step.
The rust Romo showed wasn't so much physical as it was mental.
The two months he missed with the broken collarbone suffered Sept. 20 cost him most in his "situational thinking."
"Playing the position, I was not as adept at some of the things that I have been used to doing," Romo said. "They were slower. I've got to look at the mechanics part, the physical [part], but I just feel like my natural instinct, some of the mental aspects, I was slow with."
It's easy to blame the quick turnaround for Romo's woes. He struggled last Thanksgiving as well against the Philadelphia Eagles, when he was intercepted twice. But by all accounts he was OK physically. The two-month break for the collarbone helped his back, twice surgically repaired.
"The greatest thing about the NFL is that it challenges you," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "Every time you break the huddle it's a challenge. The guys on the other side are really, really good. The coaches on the other side are really, really good. When you haven't played for stretches of time, sometimes it's hard to get back in rhythm, particularly at that position.
"Tony's a really good football player; has been for a long time. I don't think he was seeing things quite as well as he normally does."
There is a good chance Romo, 35, will not play again until 2016. X-rays taken during the game were inconclusive, and he will have a CT scan Friday to determine if the collarbone is broken for the third time since 2010.
If it is, a source said, he is done for the season. That seems right, considering he missed eight weeks (seven games) with the first break.
"I would like to think that I am a good enough player to not just give touchdowns to the defense," Romo said. "When you do that, you put your team in a big hole. Our defense battled out there and gave us chances for stretches for the outcome to be different.
"I didn't give us a chance, and for however long I'm going to sit and live with that, and that will eat at me."
Tyrone Crawford: For the first time in his career he has posted sacks in back-to-back games when he dropped Cam Newton for an 18-yard loss in the third quarter. He also blocked a field goal attempt for the first time in his career.
Rolando McClain: If not for Luke Kuechly, he might have been the best linebacker on the field. He was credited with 12 tackles, one off his season high, and had three tackles for loss. But he also dropped an interception in the first half.
Matt Cassel: He could be the starter again with Tony Romo's collarbone injury. Off the bench he completed 13 of 19 passes for 93 yards and had a 2-yard touchdown pass to Cole Beasley in the fourth quarter.
Tony Romo: Before he got hurt he was having his worst game since the 2014 season opener. He was intercepted three times in the first half and had two returned for a touchdown. It was the fourth time he has had two interceptions returned for a score in a game in his career.
Darren McFadden: Last Sunday he had 29 carries for 129 yards against Miami. Against Carolina he had 11 yards on 10 carries. There was not much room in which to work but he was not as sharp to the hole as he was just five days ago.
Dez Bryant: He caught only two passes for 26 yards on the eight passes directed his way. With the game out of hand late, the Cowboys chose to rest him with an achy foot and left knee. Bryant had a chance for a long touchdown on Josh Norman but could not come down with the slightly underthrown pass.
Romo suffered what was announced as a left clavicle injury after a 10-yard sack on the final play of the third quarter. Romo's reaction to the hit was the same as he had Sept. 20, when he broke his collarbone after being hit by linebacker Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks.
Romo walked to the locker room holding his left arm by his side, went directly to the X-ray room and did not return.
The Cowboys were hoping Romo's return from a seven-game absence would be the jolt they needed to start their playoff run. The win against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday had many believing a run was possible.
But Romo was intercepted three times in the first half Thursday, and two were returned for touchdowns, by Kurt Coleman and Luke Kuechly. Kuechly got a second interception off Romo, and the Panthers turned it into a field goal to close the half.
If the interceptions weren't bad enough, things got far worse at the end of the third quarter on Davis' sack.
So bad that the season effectively ended with five games to play.
A second chance: With Romo hurt, the Cowboys will probably have to turn to Matt Cassel for the second time this season. Cassel, who was acquired in a trade with Buffalo on Sept. 23, lost all four of his starts after taking over for Brandon Weeden, who went 0-3 as Romo's immediate successor. The Cowboys released Weeden on Nov. 17. Cassel completed 13 of 19 passes for 93 yards Thursday and threw a touchdown pass to Cole Beasley.
What were they thinking? In such a lopsided loss, it's difficult to think one play would make much of a difference, but the Cowboys wasted a coach's replay challenge on the final play of the first quarter. Greg Olsen made a 24-yard catch on third-and-10 while being blanketed by Brandon Carr. Using the extra commercial time in between quarters, Jason Garrett chose to throw the challenge flag when it was clear the catch was clean. The Cowboys are now 2-3 in challenges this year.
One reason to get excited: With the loss, the Cowboys remain in position for a top-five pick in the first round of next spring's draft. And if you want fake optimism: The Panthers were 3-8-1 last year and still made the playoffs. The Cowboys are 3-8 with five games to go.
One reason to panic: The Cowboys haven't won a game without Romo as a starter since Stephen McGee beat the Eagles 14-13 in Week 17 of the 2010 season. The Cowboys have lost nine straight games with Kyle Orton (0-1), Weeden (0-4) and Cassel (0-4) as their starter.
Bad call: It's hard to find fault with the defense, considering the offense gave the Panthers 14 points and a short field for a field goal. The defense gave up just one touchdown. Any chance of getting back into the game, however, was thwarted by the Panthers' 80-yard touchdown drive, which took 7 minutes, 29 seconds and put Carolina up 30-6 in the third quarter. On that drive, the defense allowed Carolina to convert on third-and-17. Instead of playing a prevent defense and just getting off the field, they blitzed and were beat.
No advantage: For the second time in the seven-year history of AT&T Stadium, the Cowboys will finish with a below .500 record at home. The loss to the Panthers was the Cowboys' fifth straight in the $1.2 billion stadium, with their only win coming in the season opener against the New York Giants. The Cowboys have been better than .500 at home just three times (2009, 2011, 2013).
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Tony Romo's first home game since the Sept. 13 season opener could not have started worse.
Romo was intercepted three times in the first half, and two were returned for touchdowns by the Carolina Panthers, who took a 23-3 lead to the locker room.
On the Cowboys' third play from scrimmage, Romo forced a throw to Jason Witten, and it was intercepted by Kurt Coleman, who weaved through traffic and returned it 36 yards for Carolina's first score. In the second quarter, Luke Kuechly intercepted a pass intended for Terrance Williams and returned it 32 yards to give the Panthers a 20-3 lead with 2:36 to play.
On the Cowboys' next play, Romo was intercepted by Kuechly on a seam throw to Witten. The Panthers turned that into a Graham Gano field goal for a 23-3 lead at the half.
The cheers of "Luuuuuke" from the Panthers fans in attendance were drowned out by the boos of the Cowboys fans.
Leading into last week's return against the Miami Dolphins, Romo talked about rust from his two-month layoff with a broken collarbone. He was intercepted twice in that game, but thought he would be better against the Panthers.
It didn't turn out that way in the first half.
Romo was so off-kilter that, on Carolina's last drive, Jason Garrett did not bother to call timeouts to save the Cowboys some time for a final drive before the half.
Thursday marked Romo's first three-interception game since last year's season opener against the San Francisco 49ers. It's the fourth time he has thrown two pick-sixes in a game and the first since Oct. 1, 2012, against the Chicago Bears.
But those Bills were not undefeated, as these Panthers are.
QB Mark Sanchez: No one’s suggesting Sanchez played a great game. But he got hit a lot and took five sacks. He lost a fumble. But there were no interceptions and, on a day devoid of hope for the Eagles, Sanchez just kept running out there.
TE Trey Burton: Pressed into action because Zach Ertz was out with a concussion, Burton took one Sanchez pass 43 yards. It was the biggest play of his career. Meanwhile, Burton was doing his usual work on special teams, including making tackles on kickoff coverage.
WR Jordan Matthews: He was slow to get up after taking a big hit from Detroit safety Isa Abdul-Quddus. But Matthews stayed in the game, continued plugging and scored a fourth-quarter touchdown.
OT Lane Johnson: It wasn’t all his fault, but Lions DE Ziggy Ansah had a career-best 3.5 sacks. Johnson and the rest of the Eagles’ offensive line did not protect Sanchez well and did not pave the way for the running game. A bad day.
DB Eric Rowe: The Eagles traded up in the second round to take Rowe. He has mostly been a non-factor this season. When he was forced to play because of an injury, Rowe gave up two touchdown passes to Calvin Johnson. Welcome to the league, kid.
LB Mychal Kendricks: He was closest to Lions running back Theo Riddick on an 8-yard touchdown pass that started the scoring. So Kendricks gets a down arrow on behalf of the linebacker corps, which has been lost in a haze for two weeks now.
ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins cornerback Chris Culliver wasn’t having the impact that was expected of him this season, partly because he kept dealing with one issue after another. He was suspended for one game for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. He missed three games because of a knee injury.
And then, Thursday, he was lost for the season with a torn ACL.
It’s not as if he was bad this season, it’s just that he was unable to be himself. He tried to play through some of the issues, but you could tell it affected his play. However, his fiery mindset trickled down to others and you could see that in practice, the way he wanted to compete even in a workout.
A few weeks ago, shortly after returning from his first knee issues, a practice squad receiver complained about one pass he defended. Culliver immediately barked to go again. Coach Jay Gruden shouted out that it was good to have Culliver back. He added a swagger the team previously lacked. Other players talked about watching him in practice because of how he competed.
“Cully never wants to get beat, but he doesn’t want the guy behind him to look better than him,” Redskins end Chris Baker said last month. “All the time he wants to be the best. When you have stuff like that from Cully and [Dashon] Goldson and [Terrance] Knighton, it trickles down to the rest of the team.”
The tough part for Washington is that it has never really been able to play with its starting secondary fully healthy -- that goes back to the first week of training camp, when Bashaud Breeland was hurt. Since then it’s been a revolving door with players in and out. The Redskins lost safety Duke Ihenacho for the season in the opener. Corner DeAngelo Hall sprained a toe in Week 3 and has played in only five games -- the last two at safety.
The only player to start every game in the secondary is safety Dashon Goldson. This type of in-and-out leads to players who never quite get used to working together in a system that’s new for everyone.
But the Redskins are fortunate in one way: Veteran corner Will Blackmon, signed after the season opener, has played well. He’s a smart player who can still contribute. The same can be said of rookie Kyshoen Jarrett, who was drafted as a safety but was converted to nickel corner. And they do have Hall back, though his old speed and explosiveness has been slow to return. So they have some depth, more than they had a year ago, that’s for sure.
They also have undrafted free agent Quinton Dunbar, who is making the transition from receiver to corner. He has long arms and speed, but that transition rightly takes time. In a best-case scenario, that learning would take place while he was on the practice squad. But injuries will force him onto the field.
The Redskins have been unlucky with injuries this season, having lost two starters to injuries in practice. The loss of Junior Galette, who suffered a torn Achilles this summer, still resonates because they have no one like him on the roster -- a guy with speed to pressure quarterbacks or chase down ball carriers from the back side.
Somehow they’ve still managed to put themselves in position to be in first place in the NFC East with a win Sunday over the New York Giants -- few would have predicted they’d have four wins at this stage with the injuries they’ve had. Heck, some wouldn’t have picked that many had they been healthy. If they keep winning, they deserve plenty of credit; there's stronger leadership in the locker room and a better mindset than in the recent past. It all helps.
But at some point it’s hard to overcome all this attrition. You wonder when that breaking point will arrive for Washington.
DETROIT -- November was going to be a big month for the Philadelphia Eagles. It turned out to be a big mess.
After their Nov. 8 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles were 4-4. Their next three opponents all had losing records. With a sweep, the Eagles could have been 7-4 -- in first place in the NFC East -- when they faced the New England Patriots on Dec. 6.
Instead of sweeping, the Eagles got swept. Their embarrassing 45-14 loss to the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving represented a new low for coach Chip Kelly’s team. By scoring a fourth-quarter touchdown, the Eagles avoided the biggest margin of defeat of the Kelly era.
The Eagles began their collapse on Nov. 15 with a 20-19 loss to the Miami Dolphins at home.
That was followed by a 45-17 humiliation last week courtesy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In four days, the Eagles allowed 90 points, 951 yards and 10 touchdown passes.
They are 4-7 with that date with Tom Brady and the Patriots next on their schedule. The state of the NFC East -- no team took a winning record into Week 12 -- gave the Eagles an opportunity to overcome a poor start and get into the division race.
They squandered that opportunity, one embarrassing loss at a time.
What were they thinking? With rookie cornerback Eric Rowe playing in place of an injured Nolan Carroll, the Eagles thought it would be a good idea to let the inexperienced Rowe handle Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Safety Walter Thurmond was late giving Rowe deep help on Johnson’s 25-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. Rowe was on his own for Johnson’s 5-yard score in the third quarter.
Just to show they’re fair, the Lions lined Johnson up on the right side from the 3-yard line. Rowe wasn’t involved. Veteran Malcolm Jenkins was the victim, as Johnson caught his third touchdown of the game.
One reason to get excited: There wasn’t much. One positive note: If the Eagles are somehow able to come back in 10 days and beat the Patriots, it will be that much more unexpected. After losing three consecutive games to some of the NFL’s worst teams, the Eagles will be prohibitive underdogs against the best team in football. As we said, there wasn’t much.
One reason to panic: There are two reasons -- the offense and the defense. Both were wretched for the second consecutive week.
The Eagles couldn’t run the ball or throw the ball effectively. Their defense couldn’t stop the Lions on the ground or through the air. It was as complete of a breakdown as you’ll see from an NFL team.
Coming on the heels of the team’s similarly wretched outing against Tampa Bay, expect more questions about whether players are responding to Kelly and his staff. There will no doubt be more speculation about Kelly’s future. Will he be the Eagles’ head coach beyond this season or will he find a way to return to the college game?
A strong effort here would have signified that Kelly had a firm grip on this team and could get it turned around. An effort this weak and ineffective is the sort of thing that gets coaches fired.
Fantasy watch: DeMarco Murray gained 19 yards on one of his first-half carries. On his other 13 carries, Murray gained a total of 11 yards. With Ryan Mathews out due to a concussion, Murray had an opportunity to get more work.
Ouch: The Eagles lost two starters to ankle injuries in the first half. Left tackle Jason Peters, who has been hampered by a back injury for a month, left the game during the Eagles’ first offensive possession. Carroll went down with a broken ankle in the second quarter.
Lane Johnson moved from right tackle to replace Peters. Detroit defensive end Ziggy Ansah took advantage with a career-high 3.5 sacks.
Rowe replaced Carroll and was beaten for two touchdown passes from Matthew Stafford to Johnson.
In the second half, wide receiver Josh Huff was evaluated for a concussion and did not return.
DETROIT -- Mark Sanchez made his second start of the season for the Philadelphia Eagles. Through one half of play, it was not much of an improvement over his first. The Eagles trailed the Detroit Lions 24-7.
Sanchez completed 8 of 14 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. He did not throw any interceptions, but he was only sporadically able to move the ball on the Lions. Sanchez did throw a 2-yard touchdown pass to veteran tight end Brent Celek early in the second quarter.
Sanchez wasn't helped by the shuffling of the Eagles' offensive line. Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters left the game with an ankle injury on the Eagles' first possession. Lane Johnson moved from right tackle to left tackle, while Dennis Kelly replaced Johnson on the right side.
With center Jason Kelce playing with a knee injury, the Eagles' line was not effective. DeMarco Murray gained 22 yards on 11 carries. Sanchez was frequently under pressure and was sacked twice by defensive tackle Ziggy Ansah. Both sacks came on third down and forced the Eagles to punt.
Of course, it is more important for the Cowboys to win to keep their playoff hopes alive after a seven-game losing streak.
History might help the Cowboys. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Tony Romo is the only starting quarterback with multiple wins against teams that had been 9-0 or better. He beat Indianapolis in 2006 and New Orleans in 2009.
Of course, those two teams went on to win the Super Bowls those seasons, so a loss might not be the worst thing for the Panthers.
No, after you: When Dez Bryant returned from a five-game absence with a broken foot, he was shadowed by Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. Two weeks ago, former Cowboys corner Sterling Moore followed Bryant around for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Today he gets Josh Norman, who is playing as well as any cornerback in the NFL at the moment and has four interceptions. Last week against the Miami Dolphins, Bryant had a good battle with Brent Grimes.
The Cowboys do their best to move Bryant around and it led to his touchdown last week when he was matched up on a linebacker.
Norman will likely go where Bryant goes, except in the slot.
Do receivers ever get tired of seeing the same guy?
“It depends how you’re doing,” coach Jason Garrett said. “If you’re wearing them out, you can’t get enough of them, right? And when he’s doing a good job, probably not unlike a guy in basketball. A guy’s trying to guard me, and I’m scoring every time down the floor, ‘C’mon, here you go. Love to see you.' But if he’s shutting you down and in your face and making it hard on you [not so much]. Typically the guys who go are the better corners, or there’s a good matchup from the defensive standpoint to make it challenging on the receiver.”
Tough target: As a whole the Cowboys have done a good job on tight ends this year, keeping Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham and Zach Ertz out of the end zone. Today’s challenge is Greg Olsen, who has six touchdown catches.
“He’s a complete tight end,” Garrett said. “You see him block, from the traditional Y spot. And then he runs a variety of routes. They open him up sometimes. But they keep him in, the threat of the run and their ability to go play-action off that some of those run looks challenges you. And then he is just a good route runner. He gets open against a lot of different guys. Teams try different things against him. They’ll put a back on him. They will put a safety on him. They will play man, they will play zone. And he comes up every week as a favorite target of the quarterback. He makes a ton of plays.”
The Cowboys have given up touchdowns to three tight ends this season with Miami’s Jordan Cameron catching a 12-yarder last week.
Making the matchup a little more difficult for the Cowboys is the absence of Morris Claiborne because Byron Jones has to play outside cornerback. He had been mostly responsible for covering tight ends this year, but he is needed elsewhere.
The ref: The Cowboys will see Ron Torbert and his crew for the first time in a regular-season game. Torbert is coming off a bye week and his crew might have been tired from their work in Week 10 when the Cleveland Browns played the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Browns were flagged 12 times for 188 yards, while the Steelers had five penalties for 50 yards. For a breakdown of the calls, click here.
PHILADELPHIA -- The easy conclusion is that it's a Mark Sanchez thing. After all, the former "Sanchize" for the New York Jets had thrown 69 interceptions along with 68 touchdowns in his first four seasons as a starting quarterback.
Maybe it's really a Chip Kelly thing. Sure, the coach got a laugh the other day when he was asked what Sanchez should have done with a pass that was intercepted Sunday by Tampa Bay.
"Not thrown it to Tampa Bay," Kelly said.
Sanchez, who may start for the Philadelphia Eagles Thursday, has thrown four interceptions in less than six quarters of play this season. His career ratio is exactly 1:1. Sanchez has thrown 84 interceptions and 84 touchdown passes. That is remarkable consistency.
Is it possible that Kelly's offense has something to do with it? Or is it just that those three quarterbacks are all just good enough to throw some touchdown passes while not being elite enough to avoid interceptions.
Sanchez has thrown as many interceptions this season as Tom Brady. Of course, Brady has thrown four interceptions in 409 pass attempts. Sanchez has thrown a total of 64 passes. Brady has mixed in 25 touchdowns, while Sanchez has thrown two.
The outlier here is Nick Foles' 2013 performance in Kelly's offense. Foles threw 27 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. That was Kelly's first season in the NFL, when his offense was new. Foles also had LeSean McCoy running the ball and DeSean Jackson running deep routes.
In 2014, Foles threw 13 touchdowns passes and 10 interceptions. Sanchez threw 14 TDs and 11 interceptions.
This season, Bradford has thrown 11 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. Sanchez's four picks and two touchdowns are not exactly out of line.
The constant is Kelly's offense. It utilizes a lot of crossing routes, which means receivers are running across the defense. With the release of Jackson, the role of deep threat fell to Jeremy Maclin. With his departure, no one seems to have stepped up.
Meanwhile, Kelly's playbook is considerably thinner than many coaches' offensive plans. That's a function of Kelly's no-huddle offense. Players have to learn fewer plays and formations so they are better able to line up quickly and go.
But that relative simplicity works both ways. On Sunday, Sanchez threw a screen pass to Darren Sproles in the second quarter that went for a 35-yard touchdown. In the fourth quarter, Sanchez threw a screen pass to Sproles that went for a touchdown -- for Tampa Bay. Linebacker Lavonte David intercepted the pass and took it to the house.
"It was just play recognition," David said, according to NJ Advance Media. "I knew exactly what they wanted to do. It's the same thing they were doing all game. I knew that on the drive before they were hitting us a lot with screen passes. So, knowing that, all I needed to do was read and react."
That may also explain why many of the Eagles' interceptions seem to come later in games. Defenders are more apt to recognize a play after they've seen it a few times. Sanchez has thrown four interceptions in the first half of games. He has thrown 11 after halftime. Bradford is even: five first-half picks, five in the second half.
Of course, the quarterback still has the ability to move through his progressions and find open receivers. It isn't that Kelly's offense is doomed to fail, as Foles' performance in 2013 showed. But when a limited quarterback is running the offense without the threat of downfield speed to preoccupy defenders, the result seems to be plenty of interceptions.
From the Cowboys’ perspective, however, it has not been that big of a deal. On Tuesday coach Jason Garrett shut down most of the questions about Hardy. He was asked if they talked to the Panthers before signing Hardy.
“Oh, we talked to a lot of different people really throughout his life," Garrett said.
The follow-up to the vague answer was what did the Panthers staff tell him?
“I don’t want to get into all that right now,” Garrett said. “Suffice it to say we did our due diligence on him and the reports that we got back were positive enough to want us to have him and sign him to be part of our football team.”
Asked the same questions by the Carolina media on a conference call, Garrett was asked about Hardy five times.
“Guys, I don’t want to make this call about Greg Hardy, so suffice it to say that like with every player we have, we do our due diligence on them before we bring them to our team," Garrett said. “When we bring them here, we want to create the right environment to bring out the best in them so they can help our football team. I’ll just leave it at that.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera was Garrett-like when asked what kind of teammate Hardy was.
“When Greg Hardy was a Carolina Panther, he did a nice job with the things we needed him to do here,” he said.
Later he said he “assimilated very nicely” into the locker room, but he did not get into whether there was much discussion in bringing Hardy back in 2015, fearful perhaps of tampering charges.
What did he share with the Cowboys about Hardy?
“I think all that stuff is best answered by the Cowboys," Rivera said. "Again Greg is a Dallas Cowboy now. He had his time here in Carolina.”
Hardy made a couple of appearances in the locker room over the last few days but he made only small talk. After last week’s win against the Miami Dolphins, he said the Panthers are a “nameless, faceless,” opponent to him, a reference Garrett makes each week to his team.
In both locker rooms, Hardy has support.
“Greg is a great teammate, contrary to popular belief,” Carolina quarterback Cam Newton said on a conference call Tuesday. “Greg is a person that came in and worked hard, gave everybody everything that he had and a person that you love to watch on Sundays. Anytime you’ve got a person like that, it’s always great to watch. I’m wishing him the best.”
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was asked about Hardy on a conference call with the Carolina media.
“As far as Greg, he’s done a really good job in our locker room of presenting himself as a good teammate,” Romo said. “I think a lot of times the people who are in the locker room, we get to see people on a daily basis and what you find sometimes is you can create relationships getting to know someone day in and day out and how they compete and how they play. Then guys obviously have lives when we leave this place and we all want to be better and we want to be the best version of ourselves day in and day out. I think Greg’s trying to continue to do that same thing. He comes in with a good attitude and a good work ethic here in the building so the teammates obviously work for him.”
Johnson did just that Tuesday. In the wake of an ugly loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Johnson was asked by Eagles 24/7 about the way the fans reacted.
“If we get down by any significant amount of points or we don’t make any first downs, we’re going to get booed,” Johnson told Birds 24/7. “That’s just kind of how it is. It’s not really home-field advantage playing here anymore. Really, that’s the truth. Cats here, they really don’t care.”
Reaction was immediate. The fans who pack Lincoln Financial Field don’t like being criticized by players or coaches. While Johnson was simply giving an honest answer to a reasonable question, Eagles fans were known as “boobirds” long before Johnson was born.
With fans reacting on talk radio and Twitter, Johnson posted a statement on his Twitter account:
“My comment about the fans was out of line and I apologize. I’m just frustrated like they are about our performance on the field. The bottom line is that we need to give them a reason to cheer by scoring and winning games. We need to EARN that home field advantage and I know that. Our fans deserve better. The Linc can rock and that’s on us to make it happen.”
Johnson also appeared on 97.5 The Fanatic, the ESPN station in Philadelphia.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ll own up to it. I’ve got nothing but love for the city.”
Johnson was the No. 4 pick in the 2013 NFL draft out of Oklahoma. He has started 38 games, missing only four games last season due to a PED-related suspension.
The Eagles play their next two games on the road, so Johnson won’t hear directly from the fans until the Dec. 13 game against the Buffalo Bills.
The quick turnaround before the Thanksgiving game is tricky for quarterbacks, so Romo got ahead of the game a little bit.
Last week was all about the Miami Dolphins and “zero to do with Carolina.”
This week, he looked back at his notes on the Panthers.
“I (went) back and refresh with some of the stuff I did earlier to kind of hopefully give me a little bit of a head start,” Romo said.
Playing two games in five days a year ago was not kind to Romo. He didn’t throw a touchdown pass, was intercepted twice and had a season-low in completion percentage in the Thanksgiving Day loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
He was out of sorts for most of the game.
He didn’t take a pain-killing injection for his back before playing the Eagles, which was a curious decision since he had for the other games with a normal preparation time.
“I think last year was experimental in a lot of ways at different times,” Romo said. “We had to figure that out. We hadn’t had a short week throughout the rest of the year. In some ways, just some of the decisions I made were not conducive to me being ready in that short period of time. It happened. You learn. You move on. I think I’ll be better this year because of it.”
Romo said last week his surgically-repaired back was feeling as good as it has since his surgery in December 2013. The collarbone is healing and he said he had a “good soreness” after Sunday’s win against the Dolphins.
This week, he has condensed a normal week into a shorter time frame both in terms of keeping his back and core strong and understanding the Panthers' defense.
“You just try to do maybe more of it in a single day, and there’s just a lot of little things that I would normally do in a week’s routine and you’re just doing sometimes a couple things per day,” Romo said. “And being the first week back, you’ve obviously got to get your body back feeling good in a short turnaround and that’s at least half the battle. And then the mental side of it and trying to catch up with the plays and understanding what they’re doing and how to attack them and where they’re vulnerable and my thought process in those moments and all that.”
Last week, Romo said he had to get back into his “situational thinking,” after a two-month break. As the game against the Dolphins wore on, he said he felt better and more sharp.
He expects that to continue Thursday.
“That’s going to get better each time I play, every quarter I play,” Romo said. “I think just the more you play football, usually the better you get at football.”
ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins have to forget the officials, the 28-point defeat and anything else for that matter. All they need to remember is this: With six games left, they still have a shot at the NFC East title.
Part of the reason for that, of course, is the play of their division brethren. Still, the Redskins enter this week with a chance to be in first place at this time after Sunday. They host the first-place New York Giants (5-5) on Sunday. And they’re tied with the Eagles for second place at 4-6, but the Redskins already have defeated them so if they win they’d be in first place via tiebreakers.
The Redskins still have plenty to prove before anyone will buy into them as legitimate division title contenders over the next six weeks. Their 0-5 road record naturally leads to skepticism. But they are 4-1 at home and their final three games include division matchups vs. the Giants and Dallas. They also play at Philadelphia and at the Cowboys to close the season. The Eagles appear to be coming undone; the Cowboys are 3-7 but just returned quarterback Tony Romo. The Giants could be the toughest to beat out.
Still, with four division games in the last six, the Redskins are in good position to control their fate. Of course, now they just have to win.
But it’s why they’re still in OK shape despite the 44-16 loss at Carolina.
“There’s a lot to look forward to in the season,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.
First, though, Gruden and the players know they must become more consistent. They went from a 33-point win one week to a 28-point loss the next. Granted, they also went from playing a 4-5 Saints team at home to a 9-0 Carolina team on the road. But a 61-point swing is rather large.
“We have to look at ourselves very closely X’s- and O’s-wise,” Gruden said, “and do what we can do to get better and protect our team and eliminate the self-inflicted wounds. If we can do that, we’ve shown that we can be pretty good. We’ve shown we can be pretty bad. It’s unreal how good we’ve been and how bad we’ve been all in the same season within a week of each other. We know the capabilities this team has.”
The Redskins have a plus-one turnover margin at home; they’re minus-six on the road. That helps explain the inconsistencies, but it’s more than just that: they have yet to become consistent in the run game on either side of the ball. Until that changes, they’ll continue to have these wild swings.
So the Redskins are at an odd spot, a team knowing it has a chance to climb into the division lead but one with serious flaws that must be corrected.
However, what they need now is a short memory -- like they had after the 17-point loss to New England. They followed that with the win over New Orleans.
“Just like when you beat New Orleans, you have to put that game behind you,” Gruden said of Carolina. “You can’t be too high, otherwise you come into a situation like where we’re at. … We’re excited about the opportunity, but we also understand we’ve got to play better, dig down deeper and coach better. We have to understand that we’ve got to do a lot of things better and more consistent.”