(SportsNetwork.com) - Some may laud the NFL for its tough treatment of pass- rushing pariah Greg Hardy but smart observers will connect the dots, realizing that tenacious stance makes sure the star defensive end's first game back will be a high-profile Thanksgiving Day affair against his former team, the Carolina Panthers.
Hardy, who signed an incentive-laden deal with Dallas this offseason, will certainly appeal a ruling that suspends him without pay for the team's first 10 games citing "conduct detrimental to the league."
It's hard to argue with the penalty or feel sorry for Hardy, who if anything deserved a far harsher punishment for an ugly domestic violence incident from last May when he was accused of threatening the life of his former girlfriend and throwing her on a couch covered with guns.
Hardy was originally found guilty of two misdemeanors -- assault on a female and communicating threats -- by a judge last July but appealed the decision, asking for a jury trial. According to court papers, the alleged victim never made herself available to the Mecklenburg County district attorney's office and law enforcement officials were unable to locate her to serve a subpoena.
The prosecution claimed it had reliable information she had reached a civil settlement with Hardy. In other words, Hardy paid off his victim to go away.
In a letter from commissioner Roger Goodell, Hardy was informed that a two- month NFL investigation following the dismissal of his case determined that there was sufficient credible evidence that the Ole Miss product engaged in conduct that not only violated the NFL's policies but did so with aggravating circumstances.
The league claims the investigation -- led by new NFL senior vice president and special counsel for investigations Lisa Friel and T&M Protection Resources -- involved numerous interviews with witnesses and experts, a review of hundreds of pages of court records, documents and exhibits, photographs, police reports, medical records, and reports and opinions of medical experts retained by Hardy's attorneys as well as the NFL office.
And it concluded that Hardy violated the personal-conduct policy by using physical force against Nicole Holder in at least four instances. First, the league alleges Hardy threw her in a bathtub and then on the futon that was covered with at least four semi-automatic rifles. Friel and Co. also surmised that Hardy placed his hands around Holder's neck and shoved her against a wall in his apartment's entry hallway.
"The net effect of these acts was that Ms. Holder was severely traumatized and sustained a range of injuries, including bruises and scratches on her neck, shoulders, upper chest, back, arms and feet," Goodell wrote to Hardy. "The use of physical force under the circumstances present here, against a woman substantially smaller than you and in the presence of powerful, military-style assault weapons, constitutes a significant act of violence in violation of the Personal Conduct Policy."
No doubt wary of the coming appeal and the league's previous setback in court against Adrian Peterson, Goodell also noted that Hardy's behavior would have triggered a similar suspension under any version of the personal-conduct policy.
That, however, will be debated and may be a tough sell considering Goodell's spotty and often inconsistent history of doling out punishment.
As part of his decision, Goodell also instructed Hardy to obtain a clinical evaluation by a qualified professional of his choosing. If counseling or treatment is recommended, Hardy will be expected to comply with those recommendations and provide appropriate releases to the NFL.
Finally, the new-and-improved commish also threatened Hardy with the ultimate punishment.
"You must have no further adverse involvement with law enforcement and must not commit any additional violations of league policies," he wrote. "In that respect, you should understand that another violation of this nature may result in your banishment from the NFL."
Two things here.
Friel, who prior to joining the NFL two weeks ago, was vice president of the sexual misconduct consulting and investigations division of T&M, has certainly proven the league now has the ability to conduct an investigation that won't be the butt of late-night jokes.
That's the difference between letting a 28-year veteran prosecutor who once headed the sex crimes prosecution unit in the New York County district attorney's office handle things versus a guy who doesn't take notes.
Friel, though, probably didn't realize the hypocrisy of this ruling, that an admittedly harsh punishment is scheduled to end just in time for Hardy to headline the marquee on Turkey Day.
It's conceivable the league's flair for the dramatic is forgotten by the casual public, especially if Hardy wins an appeal and gets his suspension reduced by a game or two.
But, this is no coincidence. Goodell and the NFL wanted to make sure Hardy was back in time for the Panthers-Cowboys game. And the fact he, nor the league, realized others would put two and two together highlights just how out of touch the commissioner and his lieutenants really are.