David Newton | ESPN.com
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy called Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant “small and weird-shaped” during last season’s war of words between the NFC South rivals, and his opinion hasn’t changed.
“He is, is he not?” Hardy said Thursday as the Panthers prepared for Sunday’s game against the Falcons. “See, y’all are going to get mad at me for just stating facts now. I’ve been doing this for a long time, telling the truth. The truth is that’s what it is. I’m sure he’s a good guy when he’s not in pads.”
Hardy and Bryant met near midfield following Carolina’s 30-20 victory over the Falcons on Dec. 9 at Bank of America Stadium. Hardy was shouting “get the f— off our field” in response to Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan saying the same thing after the Falcons registered a last-second 30-28 victory over the Panthers at the Georgia Dome in Week 4.
Most of the Falcons kept walking. Bryant, who at 5-foot-9 is completely overshadowed by the 6-foot-4, 290-pound Hardy, responded by saying, “Enjoy watching us in January.”
Hardy said he felt disrespected.
“I try to stay in my zone and not bother anybody until somebody crosses that line,” Hardy said. “It’s all about football until you make it something different.”
Asked if Bryant crossed the line, Hardy said, “He got a little personal with it, shouting out records and stuff. That hurts my feelings.”
Actually, Hardy said before the game the 3-9 Panthers were better than the 11-1 Falcons, who were on their way to a division title.
“Was true, wasn’t it?” Hardy said. “That was then. This is now. They’re a different team. We’re a different team. I feel like we’re going to come out on top just because we’re not worried about what they’re doing.”
Atlanta (2-5) has lost four of its last five games. Carolina (4-3) has won three straight and four of its last five and is above .500 for the first time since 2008.
“This is another team,” Hardy said. “We have a different philosophy and a different swagger about our defense to where it’s not about who’s coming in; it’s about what we’re doing and to what effect are we practicing and producing and staying productive.”
The irony of last season was Hardy didn’t know who Bryant was even though Bryant kicked a 40-yard field goal with five seconds left to win the first game between the teams.
“I really didn’t know who he was,” Hardy said a few days after that game. “He was so small and weird-shaped, I was trying to figure out what he did. I found out when I looked online he was a kicker. I was a little shocked.”
Hardy doesn’t expect the two to have issues on Sunday.
“I hope it doesn’t happen again,” he said. “It’s going to end the same way. He’s not going to be happy about it because he’s a kicker, but it’ll be good to see him again. I’ll say hey.”
Asked if he saw himself getting into a war of words with somebody this week other than a kicker, Hardy said, “A war of words? I don’t think anybody else on that team is smart enough.”
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