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Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy (76) on the sidelines during a preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings at AT&T Stadium. (Matthew Emmons-USA)

Dave D'Onofrio's Patriots Notebook: Greg Hardy's past won't keep him off the field in the future

We knew long before Tuesday that Greg Hardy is not a nice person.

We didn’t need him to pass on an opportunity to apologize for his past or speak out against domestic abuse. We didn’t need him to tell us that he votes players to the Pro Bowl based on how attractive their wives are. And we didn’t need him to gleefully declare these the best days of his life, despite what has transpired over these past 15 months.

Yet we got all that and more when the 27-year-old met the media Tuesday in Dallas.

Pick your pejorative. They all apply. Just go look up the horrifying details of his July 2014 arrest, which was followed by a judge’s conviction, even if he settled with his accuser before the case reached a jury trial, it seems clear that Hardy is a man who lacks respect for women. This isn’t news.

It is news, though, that he returns to the football field Sunday. And that means Hardy is now the Patriots’ problem.

He’s not in jail. And he’s not suspended, an arbitrator having reduced his initial 10-game ban to four. So for all the off-field indignities, come Sunday afternoon he’s merely a football player, and a disruptive and potentially difference-making one at that. So the Patriots have no choice but to treat him that way as they prepare to face the Cowboys in Week 5.

“He’s a great player,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. “It takes a lot of different things to handle a guy like that. But he’s been a great player since he’s been in the league, so we’re going to have to prepare for him and be ready for all different types of moves that he’s got, but they’ve got a good D-line anyway. They count on getting pressure from their front four getting to the quarterback.

“I don’t really care about his personal feelings.”

Hardy’s personal feelings include his expressed hope that Brady’s supermodel wife and her sister and her friends would attend the game where he plans to, in a mind-bogglingly telling choice of words, come out “guns blazing.”

But the quarterback said the comment didn’t bother him, instead focusing on the impact Hardy could have on a Cowboys defense that has struggled the past couple of weeks. In losses against Atlanta and at New Orleans, Dallas allowed 438 yards of offense in consecutive weeks. One week they allowed 158 on the ground, and the next they yielded 335 through the air to a seemingly limited Drew Brees.

The only three turnovers they’ve forced this season all came in Week 2 against an Eagles offense still struggling to find its way. Only five teams in football have been worse on third down than the Cowboys, who’ve allowed a 44-percent conversion rate. And only five teams have fewer sacks than Dallas’ six through four games.

So while much attention has been paid to the injuries of Tony Romo and Dez Bryant on offense, at this point the Cowboys’ are arguably in greater need of help on the other side of the line of scrimmage, and that’s where the infusion of Hardy and linebacker Rolando McClain could be a tremendous boost.

McClain is another player with a checkered past, but with talent alluring enough that the Patriots had him in for a free-agent visit this past spring, and reportedly offered him a contract despite a looming drug suspension. However, it’s Hardy who has more of a chance to make an immediate impact.

At 6-foot-4 and roughly 280 pounds, he has all the physical tools to be a dominant pass rusher, and that’s what he proved himself to be over four-plus seasons in Carolina. He made 40 starts for the Panthers and piled up 34 sacks, the pinnacle coming in 2013, when he ranked third league-wide in dropping opposing QBs on 15 occasions. Brady was among them.

“We played against him a few years ago, and he’s a really dynamic player,” said New England’s signal caller. “So they’ve got a couple of them back this week, McClain and Hardy. It’s a good defense, anyway, so I’m sure having those two guys back will help a lot.”

Bill Belichick agreed, noting that the addition of adding two talents of this caliber makes preparation even more difficult. Not only will the Patriots need to be ready for what the Cowboys have shown through a quarter of the schedule, but they must also study what Hardy did during the preseason, and the way Dallas deployed McClain last year.

“They are really good players. They are both impact players,” said New England’s coach.

“(Hardy) is a dynamic player,” Belichick also added. “We know him from Carolina. He’s a handful.”

Everybody in the NFL knows what Hardy did for Carolina. And everybody also knows what Hardy allegedly did in Carolina. Everybody knows a judge found him guilty of grabbing his girlfriend, throwing her into a bathtub, slamming her down on a futon covered with guns, then strangling her, all while threatening to kill her.

Despite that, neither the courts nor the commissioner could find a way to keep Hardy off the field any longer.

So now it’s up to the Patriots to make sure Hardy’s play in Sunday’s return doesn’t come to look like the start of his redemption story.

Dave D’Onofrio covers the Patriots for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His e-mail address is

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