By now, opposing offenses realize they can't take the Carolina Panthers' defensive line for granted. They've seen the film, and they know that Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson have blossomed into one of the best defensive end tandems in the NFL.
What they may not realize is that when they are going up against the Panthers, they are actually facing a giant sea monster bent on destruction.
Every Sunday, Hardy transforms into an alter-ego he calls "Kraken," a name taken from the enormous mythological sea monster. He paints his face black, puts on back- or white-colored contact lenses and even affixes a piece of tape with the name "Kraken" over "Hardy" on the back of his jersey for pre-game warmups.
"The Kraken is a giant monster that just demolishes everything that moves," Hardy told the Charlotte Observer last year. "On Wednesday or Thursday, I go down in my subconscious. I find him, and I unlock the cage. About Saturday he usually comes out. Then he's always out on Sunday. I don't control him then. What he does when I'm not there, I don't know."
Hardy's alter-ego has served him well, as he has tallied 6.5 sacks through nine games this year, but it has also led to some embarrassing moments. Last year he forgot to take off the "Kraken" tape and was fined by the Panthers. A few weeks ago against the Redskins, Hardy's emotions got the best of him, and he yelled at his offensive teammates towards the end of the game.
The 6-foot-4, 290-pound Hardy has a few other eccentricities. He loves riding motorcycles and driving at high speeds, and he even posted a photo on Twitter that appeared to show him driving faster than 100 mph. But after a crash last year which resulted in a foot injury that sidelined him for most of the 2011 preseason, he ditched the motorcycle before the 2012 preseason.
"You think the guy’s a little off. Then you have a chance to talk to him and you realize, 'Oh yeah, this guy’s a little off,'" defensive tackle Dwan Edwards told the Observer. “It all kind of matches up between his personality and the stuff that he does."