ARLINGTON, Texas - Greg Hardy sure loomed large Sunday night.
Some of his outsized presence even pertained to football.
The Cowboys' indefensible defensive end stunted inside, finally beat Lane Johnson and sacked Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford to end a drive.
Why did Hardy matter so much beyond that sack?
Because pictures from Hardy's disgusting past seeped back into his disturbing present again - an inevitability, certainly; but in keeping with the Cowboy Code.
The Dallas Cowboy Code.
See, the Cowboys chose to add Hardy to their team even in light of his history of emotional instability and domestic violence. They did so to the tune of $11.3 million, after Carolina, his last team, cut ties with Hardy after he was convicted of assaulting his then-girlfriend, Nicole Holder, in the spring of 2014. The Panthers didn't dare bring Hardy back to play last year, even though they hard to pay him $13.1 million for nothing.
The Cowboys didn't mind all of the baggage.
In fact, they seem to embrace it.
The Eagles do not embrace Hardy in the fraternity of players, nor do they respect his professionalism.
"There are three (types) of people I have zero respect for in this world," said Pro Bowl center Jason Kelce. "It's people who hit women, people who molest children, and rapists. I'm glad he didn't have a good day and . . .
"I don't know. I think it's a joke a guy like that is able to play this quickly."
"Any time I had a chance to put a little muscle into a block, I did," said Lane Johnson, who drew Hardy most of the night. "He's good. But he's a guy when things are going good, he's great. But when he's not effective, he'll shut it down."
Owner Jerry Jones, himself once accused of sexual assault, figured Hardy deserved another chance, and all that money, and didn't even care much that Hardy would miss the first four games of the season serving a suspension - the quick return to which Kelce referred.
In fact, Jones told "60 Minutes" that he couldn't be sure that Hardy - a 2013 Pro Bowler with 15 sacks - was guilty, and Jones has said he considers Hardy a "leader."
Jerry Jones is a masterful salesman. Don't buy that.
Hardy is here to deliver pain at a rate of about $1 million a game. He earned his money Sunday night in a 33-27 loss to the Eagles in overtime.
He earned his reputation on a Tuesday night in Charlotte, N.C.
To review: On May 13, 2014, police reports say Hardy choked Holder, threw her on a futon covered with semiautomatic weapons, slammed her against the wall and threatened to kill her. He was convicted of assault in a bench trial but requested a jury trial. But Holder, who reached a settlement with Hardy, disappeared, one of several issues with the prosecution's ham-handed handling of the case. The case was dismissed last Monday. Hardy's record was expunged Thursday.
That framed the perfect opportunity for Deadspin.com to release pictures Friday of Holder's injuries. Of course, a fresh tidal wave of outrage crashed onto the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.
The city didn't even shudder.
Jones said he never saw the pictures (which the NFL and NFLPA saw, according to ESPN), but Jones shrugged off the pics with a "second chance" statement.
The Eagles were in town. Bigger fish to fry.
Hardy tweeted twice Saturday to express his "regret" for his past and his gratitude that Jones gave him an NFL future.
His NFL present remains a portrait in violent temper.
Two weeks ago Hardy slapped the clipboard from the hand of a Cowboys coach then bumped into the coach. Hardy needed to be restrained by, of all people, sideline brat Dez Bryant.
Sunday night, for no discernible reason, Hardy shoved Matt Tobin after an extra point and drew a personal foul penalty. After the play he again appeared to spit venom on the sideline when approached by a coach.
Jerry's newest leader.
Perhaps that's because Hardy fits the Cowboys' outlaw image.
The franchise basks in its unsavory reputation. It invites attention to its most unsavory elements; it spotlights the least commendable of its components. For instance:
Sunday night, as usual, the Cowboys ran onto the field en masse 50 minutes before kickoff. The first player featured on the 23,000-square-foot video board:
No. 76, Greg Hardy.
For decades, everything surrounding the Cowboys has been steeped in renegade disregard for propriety, even by the NFL's low standards.
Hardy's lurid history overshadowed a game fascinating on its own merit. The most pertinent personnel issue: The Eagles were playing without future Hall of Fame left tackle Jason Peters, who, incidentally, would have faced Hardy most of the night.
Instead, third-year right tackle Lane Johnson made his first NFL start at left tackle, which meant fourth-year backup Dennis Kelly made his first start at right tackle since 2012. They did fine.
The Cowboys played well, too. They were not distracted. Why would they be?
This is Cowboy Culture.
From Michael Irvin's bizarre shenanigans to Barry Switzer's arrest for carrying an illegal gun at the airport to Joseph Randle's arrest in February for possession of marijuana that led to his release this week, Jerry's 'Pokes get caught in more embarrassing and illegal situations than members of Congress.
They are sport's emblem of garish greed. From the audacious spaceship stadium to their comely sideline entertainment, the Cowboys equal carnality.
Yes, almost every team has cheerleaders, but nobody bares it and shares it like those ladies.
Considering the depth and lineage of this herd of hedonism, what's one more black sheep?
The cries of outrage are correct: Hardy never should have played another NFL game, even if it took the NFL's most stringent powers of self-discipline (and collusion). Participation in the League is a privilege . . . unless you're too valuable.
Would anyone be surprised if Hardy beat another woman? Anyone?
But he's too good for exile.
Former Ravens running back Ray Rice, on the other hand, is more easily ignored and replaced. After video surfaced of him punching his then-fiancee, colluding to exclude him was much easier.
Perhaps, finally, the Hardy case will complete the erosion of the absurd concept of athlete-as-hero and undress the reality: Athletes are entertainers.
Would Hollywood blacklist an a-lister for domestic violence? Ask Mel Gibson.
Would the music industry?
Calling for Jones to fire Greg Hardy is as unrealistic as saying RCA should drop Chris Brown.
Two of Brown's three albums issued since his domestic violence case have topped the charts. The other was No. 2. Nobody turns down that kind of production.
Certainly, nobody in Dallas.