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Hardy's road to recovery


CHARLOTTE – While recovering from what could have been a fatal motorcycle accident nearly a month ago, Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy did some shopping.

"I've got a really, really, really big truck," Hardy said, "so you can hit me all you want."

Hardy was the one doing the hitting Sunday, returning to practice for the first time since the frightening incident.

"It was an exciting first day, being back with the guys," Hardy said. "I wasn't watching on the sidelines, so I'm excited about it."

Hardy realizes he could have been sidelined much longer – perhaps permanently – if not for a matter of inches.

On July 18, Hardy was driving his motorcycle on Interstate 40 in his native Tennessee to Charlotte when an 18-wheeler suddenly slowed in front of him, forcing Hardy to brake hard. His motorcycle slid on the slick pavement, the front tire flew off, and Hardy's head contacted the back of the truck before he came to a stop.

Amazingly, Hardy didn't even require stitches, though he did suffer significant abrasions to the left side of his body

"It could have been a life-ending deal," Hardy said. "It wasn't my fault, and I was wearing the right equipment, so that's one of those things that tells you you've got to look out for life, appreciate it while it's here and make the most of it.

"As far as football, take every rep as the last rep, take every moment as your last moment."

Hardy's return Sunday was welcomed by all in the Panthers family.

"You can tell the guy really loves to play the football. It's good to see him back out here after everything that has happened to him," left guard Travelle Wharton said. "He can play. He can add that edge rusher that we need. He's out here with fresh legs."

Head coach Ron Rivera said he's hopeful that Hardy will be fully back to speed when Carolina opens the regular season Sept. 11 at the Arizona Cardinals.

"The last couple of weeks what he has been doing other than rehabbing is he has been doing his conditioning, so today did not look like it affected him that much," Rivera said. "We'll see how he is tomorrow and how sore he is, because this is the first time he did any football work.

"He's an every down defensive end for us. He'll work himself back into shape, and when he's ready to go he'll be one of our starting defensive ends."


Hardy didn't start any games as a rookie last season, but fans did get glimpses of his potential. He blocked a punt in the season opener and went on to see action in 15 games, recording three sacks and forcing two fumbles to go with 30 tackles.

Despite Rivera's proclamation that Hardy is starting material, Hardy feels like it's going to be a long road between this Sunday and the Sunday that kicks off the regular season in three weeks.

"Those are just words. I've got to play and earn the spot," he said. "There was a lot of anticipation today, just hoping I've still got it. I was little afraid to get out on the line and see if it's still there and see what improvements I've got to make, but it felt really good.

"There's always room to get better, but I've got a lot of time – till September 11 – to get back."

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