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Greg Hardy says he's 'never put [his] hand on any women'

SB Nation logoSB Nation 5/04/2016 Adam Stites
© Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Defensive end Greg Hardy is a top pass rusher in his prime, but isn't drawing much interest on the free agent market because of his off-field history. Now he's trying to combat that negative image by denying he ever did anything wrong.

"I've never put my hand on any women in my whole entire life," Hardy told ESPN's Adam Schefter in an interview set to air in full on Tuesday. "That's just not how we're raised. As you can tell, like I said again, it's the Bible belt. It's just something that's, I wouldn't even say frowned upon, it's just nonexistent in most Southern homes."

Hardy, 27, was convicted by a North Carolina judge for assault, but when he appealed with a trial by jury, the charges and his conviction were thrown out due to a lack of cooperation from his accuser. Still, there were photos from Hardy's alleged attack and the defensive end drew even more criticism for his public handling of the accusations.

According to the victim's account, Hardy dragged her by her hair, threw her on to a futon covered with guns, strangled her and threatened her life. As a condition of his release on bond, Hardy turned over nine firearms to police.

"I didn't say that I didn't do anything wrong," Hardy told Schefter. "That situation occurred and that situation was handled but ... saying that I did nothing wrong is a stretch but saying I am innocent is correct. Yes sir."

Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith took to Twitter afterwards to criticize Hardy's comments/

In his first season with the Cowboys, Hardy finished with six sacks, but didn't make many friends in Dallas. He got in a shouting match with Dez Bryant, slapped a clipboard out of the hands of special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia and was involved in a fight with a teammate who called him a "woman beater" in practice.

Only Demarcus Lawrence finished with more sacks for the Cowboys, a team very much in need of defensive end talent, but the team didn't think it was worth bringing Hardy back for another season. Before he arrived in Dallas, Hardy racked up 26 sacks over a two-season span with the Carolina Panthers, earning a Pro Bowl nod in 2013, before he spent almost the entire 2014 season sidelined due to his domestic violence case.

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