IRVING, Texas – Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones was careful in choosing his words about Greg Hardy, separating what the defensive end has done off the field from what he did on the field.
On the field, Jones was clearly impressed with Hardy’s performance: two sacks, five tackles, a forced fumble, five quarterback hits and a tackle for loss.
But that’s not what impressed Jones most in the Cowboys' 30-6 loss to the New England Patriots.
“Where he did really well was how long he stayed, how long he played,” Jones said. “(Rolando) McClain did the same thing. I’m taken back by how many reps they got. And that was not an easy game for them.”
Hardy was involved in 41 of 59 snaps, tied with Tyrone Crawford for the most among Cowboys defensive linemen. McClain was in on 52 snaps.
Hardy was playing in his first game in 13 months and had just three regular-season practices after serving his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. While Hardy had the benefit of training camp, McClain did not as he recovered from offseason knee surgery. McClain missed the first four games because of violating the substance-abuse policy.
According to the press box stats, McClain had eight tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry.
“It was great,” McClain said of being on the field. “Long four weeks. The score is what it is. You can’t change it. But when you can go out and play football that’s a good day. Look forward to the challenge. I think the rest of the guys look forward to the challenge, go out and face it. (The Patriots) are a great team, great team. We know the standard. They won the Super Bowl so they are the standard. We know the standard. We know we have to improve, so the next thing is going out and doing it.”
While the bye week might come at a good time for injured players, it might also be good for Hardy and McClain, so they can catch their breath after their first game. Hardy admitted to some rust, despite his productivity. McClain acknowledged last week in practice that he was tired.
“There’s a lot of games to play,” Hardy said. “A lot of teammates that are here want to get better. I want to get better. So back to the drawing board.”