TAMPA — Bucs defensive tackle Clinton McDonald is as disturbed as anyone by the images of the injuries suffered by Greg Hardy's ex-girlfriend in May 2014, which led to his arrest on domestic violence charges.
"Do I condone it? No," McDonald said of the incident. "I've got two little girls."
But even after photos of Hardy's bruised and battered ex-girlfriend, Nicole Holder, from his now-expunged domestic violence case were made public last week, McDonald isn't ready to condemn the Cowboys defensive end.
"At times like that you need meditation and prayer for the whole situation. For the victim and for the suspect or whatever," McDonald said. "In a sense, both of them are victims. You can say, 'Yeah, this happened to her.' But he's a victim as well."
How is Hardy a victim?
"For him to do it, it came from somewhere," McDonald said. "We're only a product of what we learned. At some point, something happened, not just to him. In the United States, all this stuff that's going on, it's learned behavior. You just don't come out of the womb saying I'm going to hit somebody. I just say my prayers to him, his family, her and her family, and I hope the whole situation gets better with time."
The Bucs host the Cowboys on Sunday, and Hardy has gotten their attention, more for what he can do on the field than what he has done off it.
"He's definitely a game-wrecker, an outstanding player," Bucs offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. "And they move him around, so that makes it tough to find him."
The Bucs considered signing Hardy in March and went as far as to structure a contract that was mirrored by the Cowboys. But the deal with Tampa Bay would have been contingent on Hardy meeting with the team for evaluation. When that didn't happen, the Bucs withdrew their offer.
"Every player that's available, we're going to do our research on them and come to a conclusion on what direction we need to go," coach Lovie Smith said. "We didn't go in that direction."
On Wednesday, several players weighed in on whether Hardy should be allowed to continuing playing in the NFL. Last year, Hardy was found guilty of domestic violence in a bench trial. But under North Carolina state law, he appealed for a jury trial. The case was thrown out in February when Holder stopped cooperating with authorities.
"I look at it like the guy made a mistake, and everybody deserves another opportunity in life," tackle Demar Dotson said. "If he learned from it, if he realized his mistake and is not willing to go back down that path again, the guy has paid his debt and should be allowed to play football."
Center Evan Smith said he's not focused on Hardy's off-the-field behavior.
"That's up to the league," Smith said. "I'm not going to say one thing or another about it. Plenty of people have expressed their opinions. I just want to go out and play football and focus on my job."
Hardy has appeared tone deaf to some of the scrutiny he has received. He made suggestive comments about Tom Brady's wife before the Cowboys' 30-6 loss to the Patriots on Oct. 11. He got into a sideline altercation with special teams coach Rich Bisaccia during the Cowboys' 27-20 loss to the Giants two weeks later.
"I think that's like Greg being Greg," said Bucs receiver Louis Murphy, who was a teammate of Hardy's in Carolina. "Knowing him on a personal level, he's kind of a free-spirited type of guy. He plays his (tail) off but doesn't really care about what the media says too much. He marches to the beat of his own drum. That's the type of guy he is."
On Wednesday, Hardy posted he was "Innocent until proven guilty-lack of knowledge & information is just ignorance-the unjust/prejudicial treatment of diff categories of people is discrimination," in his Twitter account bio.
Hardy also changed his name on the account to "Perfection." Shortly after the change, Hardy took the bio down.
"We just address issues when they come up and we take care of things in house," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday. "We've had to do that a couple of times with Greg."