Carolina Panthers Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy faces a six-game suspension by the NFL if his guilty verdict for domestic violence isn't overturned on appeal.
The NFL is immediately implementing a six-game suspension for a first offense on domestic violence and a lifetime ban for a second. A second-time offender may petition for reinstatement after one year, but there is no assurance it will be granted.
The new measures were announced to league owners in a letter from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN.
As was written here when the NFL began exploring stricter penalties, this could have a major impact on Hardy, who was found guilty by a Mecklenburg County judge of assaulting and threatening ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder during a May 13 incident at Hardy's apartment.
Hardy appealed the July 15 verdict and asked for a jury trial, which has been scheduled for Nov. 17. His attorney expects the case won't be heard until sometime in 2015, after the season.
The NFL and the Panthers appear to have taken the stance of waiting for Hardy's case to be concluded in court before issuing any penalty. Hardy has not heard from the league.
Asked if the new policy changed the league's stance on Hardy's case, a league spokesman told ESPN.com, "Each case will be addressed individually on its merits."
If the league waits for the case to play out in court and it isn't heard until next year, Carolina will get a full season of their 2013 sack leader (15) playing for a new contract. If they don't re-sign him, they might never have to deal with the suspension.
Hardy is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2014 season. Carolina used the franchise tag on him for this season, guaranteeing him $13.1 million.
General manager Dave Gettleman said before the arrest that the goal was to sign Hardy to a long-term deal. He was noncommittal when asked before the start of training camp if that remained the case.
Gettleman's only comments on Hardy's situation were that the allegations were very serious and it was "very concerning and very disappointing."
Hardy hasn't publicly commented on his case other than to say he was disappointed it has been a distraction to the team. Coach Ron Rivera and players have deflected questions about Hardy's legal issues, saying they are focused on the season.
The new standards are a direct response to criticism the league received in giving Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice a two-game suspension for allegedly striking Janay Palmer, who is now his wife.
Goodell made it clear in his letter that the league won't tolerate future offenses. He wrote:
"Domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal. They are never acceptable and have no place in the NFL under any circumstances.
"Our Personal Conduct Policy has long made clear that domestic violence and sexual assault are unacceptable. We clearly must do a better job of addressing these incidents in the NFL. And we will. Earlier today, I sent NFL owners a letter that identified specific actions we will take to improve our response to domestic violence and sexual assault."