The real controversy over Greg Hardy is not his actions on the sideline, but the Cowboys’ treatment of it. He freaked out for a couple of minutes, as players do in the heat of a game. But whereas many observers saw it as a loss of control, the Cowboys portrayed it as leadership. That’s the sort of spin that can backfire if the rest of the locker room isn’t on board.
Jason Garrett said Hardy was merely trying to motivate his teammates; Jerry Jones called him “inspirational.” There’s a tendency in a sport as intense and violent as football to conflate passion with genuine anger, and former Bears head coach Marc Trestman failed to walk that line last season, according to a report from Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman.
The report concerns veteran DT Jeremiah Ratliff, who was released last week in an ugly scene that saw him have to be physically escorted by security out of the building. According to one player who was there, Ratliff had a similar blow-up in a practice session before the final game of last season, and was told by coaches he wouldn’t be allowed to practice. Upon freaking out, Ratliff was asked to leave. Then he came back, pissed.
Practice was stopped and most players went off to the side while a small group of players and coaches tried to calm Ratliff down and get him to leave.
It didn’t work initially. Ratliff destroyed the game clock on the practice field, smashing it and kicking it. Later, he shoved an assistant coach to the ground. While all of this went on, Trestman never intervened. He just stood off to the side and watched.
And this is the most incredible part. The uber-enabling part. Not only was Ratliff never punished by Trestman...he was named one of the captains the next day. The entire locker room was incredulous.
Trestman justified making Ratliff a captain by saying he brought intensity, but no player bought that.
The player-witness told Freeman that this is what caused Trestman to once and for all lose the respect of the locker room. Trestman was fired the morning after the Bears’ last game. (He is now the Ravens’ offensive coordinator.)
Freeman makes the obvious point that this is the kind of shit a team will put up with from a talented player. Ratliff, a four-time Pro Bowler, got away with things until he wasn’t good enough to anymore. Hardy is probably the best player on the Dallas defense—it’s going to take a lot more than a sideline meltdown to sour the Cowboys on Hardy. (And his actions certainly don’t compare to Ratliff’s.) But the question is how the Cowboys players, including the ones that Hardy pushed and berated, will feel about the coach and owner praising him for it.
Photo via AP.