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Dave Gettleman: Teams increasingly wary of “ticking time bombs”

2015 NFL Scouting Combine

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 19: Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman speaks to the media during the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 19, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

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Even though Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman wouldn’t speak specifically about pending free agent Greg Hardy, he did make it clear how worried his team has to be moving forward with players with character questions.

The Panthers have always been sensitive about it, going back to former first-rounder Rae Carruth’s conviction for conspiracy to murder his pregnant girlfriend.

And while nothing Hardy did approached that level (the criminal domestic abuse charges were thrown out recently), the economic damage to the Panthers salary cap was worse.

They paid Hardy $13.1 million last year for one game, and it’s clear they’re not looking to re-invest in that project.

“I think every organization is careful about that,” Gettleman said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “This game is too hard. There are 53 guys and you’ve got all these coaches, all these personnel people, everybody’s working.

“Who wants a ticking time bomb? So I don’t think it’s going to change. Every organization I’ve ever been with that has gone into the draft and you talk about the background stuff, they’ll stay away from the guys that have character issues and the potential to continue those issues. This is too hard to have to worry about that.”

Prior to last year’s arrest, the problems Hardy had were of the nuisance variety, the kind of bad decision-making that’s not uncommon for guys who fell to the sixth round for reasons not physical.

But when it’s time to pay those guys beyond rookie deals, the scrutiny has to be more intense.

With 10 percent of their salary cap sitting on the commissioner’s exempt list last season, the fact the Panthers were able to win the NFC South might be doubly amazing.

And as he tries to build the Panthers into consistent winners, the memory of that hole blown into his salary cap is clearly going to linger in Gettleman’s mind.