The Panthers have removed Greg Hardy from the team's active roster until the Pro Bowl defensive end's domestic violence case is resolved.
Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman said Hardy will continue to be paid and is allowed to be at the team facility, but will not practice. Hardy earns more than $770,000 each week during the regular season.
The Panthers announced the decision Wednesday to place Hardy on the exempt-commissioner's permission list just hours after the Vikings took a similar disciplinary approach with Adrian Peterson, who is addressing child abuse charges in Texas.
Hardy was convicted July 15 of assault on a female and communicating threats after the victim claimed the 6-foot-4, 275-pound player threw her in the bathtub and onto a sofa covered with guns before threatening to kill her. Hardy is appealing the ruling and a jury trial is set for Nov. 17.
Gettleman said it was a tough decision given the changing climate in the NFL.
"We have attempted to be thoughtful about this, but there is no rule book for this," Gettleman said. "Our overriding goal has always been to do the right thing."
The GM said he expects Hardy to be out at least through November.
"I understand that I need to step away from football right now and take care of this legal matter," Hardy said in a statement. "I am entitled to due process and my day in court, and that's where my focus should be. I appreciate the Panthers for giving me this opportunity and look forward to being back with my teammates. I am disappointed to leave my teammates and the Carolina Panthers during our season. My decision to take a leave of absence allows me to focus on my family until the legal process has run its course."
The NFL Players Association released a statement Wednesday saying, "Today, Greg Hardy made a decision to take a voluntary leave of absence to resolve his pending legal issue. The NFLPA and NFL worked with Greg, his representatives and the Carolina Panthers on this matter. We support this decision and hope the best for him and his family."
Earlier Wednesday, with security around the stadium amped up, Hardy and his agent Drew Rosenhaus emerged from the team's facility, stepped into the player's Bentley and drove away. Earlier, two police officers on motorcycles guarded the entrance to the team's practice facility.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera was 20 minutes late arriving to Wednesday's practice and said that Hardy would not participate in workouts as he walked past reporters.
The coach later said he did have a one-on-one discussion with the defensive end.
"I wanted to make sure Greg was a good in a place," Rivera said. "We had a great conversation."
Rivera had said in a press conference Monday that Hardy would continue to practicing and attending team meetings this week but called the situation "very fluid." The coach also said at that time that the Panthers hadn't decided on whether Hardy would be allowed to play Sunday night.
Hardy, who was tagged as the team's franchise player this offseason and signed a one-year, $13.1 million deal, is Carolina's top pass rusher.
He tied a franchise record with 15 sacks last season and has 26 in in his last 32 games.
Veteran safety Roman Harper said Wednesday during open locker room that every team has to battle adversity at some point, but said losing Hardy will hurt.
Harper said unbeaten Panthers will miss Hardy's pass rush skills and energy. "You take a player of his caliber off the field and it is going to affect us," Harper said. "But at the end of the day you can't use that as an excuses or a crutch. You have to fly around and make plays as a defense. We understand what we will be missing, but at the end of the day we still have a job to do."
Tight end Greg Olsen said the Panthers are doing their best to focus on the Steelers.
"You learn very fast in this league that there are going to be a lot of outside factors," Olsen said. "You have to do the best you can not to let those things impact your preparations and really focus on what you can control. The most successful teams just worry about the here and now and what they can control."