Panthers DE Hardy ready to play without new deal

By STEVE REED - AP Sports Writer
    2013-06-11 14:20

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Panthers starting defensive end Greg Hardy said he isn't about to let his contract be a distraction and keep him from being a ``dominant'' player this season.

It might even inspire him to play harder.

The Panthers outspoken fourth-year player said Tuesday he plans to report to training camp on time and play this season even if he doesn't get a new contract from the Panthers.

Hardy had been hoping for a new contract after a breakout season in 2012 in which he posted a career-high 11 sacks and 61 tackles.

But with Carolina's struggles getting under the NFL salary cap this offseason no long-term deal has been reached. Hardy said he understands the team's financial restrictions and won't allow his contractual situation to be a distraction.

Hardy missed four voluntary practices during OTAs raising speculation he might hold out. But he attended the team's first mandatory minicamp practice Tuesday and dispelled that notion.

``Yeah, I will be there bright and early, same as always,'' Hardy said of his plans for training camp.

Hardy is in the final year of a four-year contract and will make $1.35 million this season. He would become an unrestricted free agent after the 2013 season if the Panthers don't reach a long-term deal with him.

Hardy's agent Drew Rosenhaus has not returned phone calls. Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman has said the team will not comment on contract matters.

``You can't think about it,'' Hardy said of his contract status. ``It's one of those things where I know the position of the team. That's what I have an agent for. It's not really my job... I told my agent don't even tell me. I feel like it's hard to play and be an agent for yourself at the same time. So I will come up and do my part and let him do his part.''

In the meantime, Hardy said his focus is on taking another step forward.

Last year he and fellow defensive end Charles Johnson combined for 23.5 sacks and the Panthers were ninth in the league in sacks per play.

The outspoken Hardy said feels like the Panthers defensive line - which he has already dubbed ``Monsters Inc.'' - can be one of the most dominant in the league following the addition of defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short, the team's top two draft picks.

``I feel like we finally have a full D-line, our whole team and we're ready to dominate,'' Hardy said. ``... It comes down to who do you double team? If you can't double team everybody or you're (in trouble). It's only five against four.''

Hardy is not one who lacks for confidence.

Last year he predicted the out-of-playoff-contention Panthers would beat up on quarterback Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons late in the season, and Carolina did just that.

This year, Hardy said he feels like ``nobody can stop me'' when it comes to his pass rush. He's slimmed down to about 280 pounds in an effort to improve his speed coming off the edge.

When asked about his personal goals this season, Hardy grinned and said he wants 50 sacks.

``Why shoot low, right?'' Hardy said. ``If I'm going to shoot at it, I'm going to shoot at it with a 50 caliber. I'm going to shoot at a little bird with a 50-caliber bullet. That's the goal for this year, 50 sacks, that's where I'm at.''

Hardy has become known for his outlandish statements and bold predictions.

Now the man who paints his face and turns his persona into an imaginary creature he calls ``Kraken'' on game day, is hoping his confidence will rub off on his Carolina teammates.

``This year, it's complete domination, savage, ruthless, disgusting all-out Kraken-type stuff,'' Hardy said. ``Except it's going to spread. I'm tired of having to stick up for everybody. We're about to come out with a nasty attitude. It's going to be monstrous.''

NOTES: Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart was held out of practice with a sore ankle. ... Rookie Edmund Kugbila has been working with the first team at right guard ahead of veteran Geoff Hangartner.

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