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Hardwick hasn't missed a beat-NC Times

Discussion in 'American Football' started by rexy2006, Jan 2, 2010.

  1. rexy2006

    rexy2006 Well-Known Member

    Dec 17, 2005
    Chargers center Nick Nardwick received high marks for
    his play in the Christmas Day victory over Tennessee,
    his first game in 15 weeks.
    (Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle - jlyte@nctimes.com)

    Chargers center doesn't look like player off long rehab

    By SCOTT BAIR - sbair@nctimes.com | Posted: Friday, January 1, 2010 8:30 pm

    SAN DIEGO ---- Nick Hardwick woke up to a ringtone. The cell phone at his bedside serenaded early on Saturday morning, waking the Chargers center from his well-deserved slumber.
    Hardwick rolled over, saw "Coach Turner" on the screen and decided to pick up.

    Hardwick's coach was checking up on his Pro Bowl lineman, to gauge his body's reaction to its first football game in 15 weeks. His absence from Chargers Park was an oddity, considering he had spent part of each day in the training room since early September. Hardwick felt the need to get constant treatment on his surgically repaired ankle in the interest of returning to form, but not on this day.

    The day after he took 68 snaps against a physical Tennessee Titans squad, Hardwick didn't feel like coming in. Matter of fact, he didn't need to.
    "I woke up Saturday and felt great," Hardwick said. "I hadn't had a day off in the 13 weeks since I had surgery, so I decided to take a moment for myself and sleep in."

    It was a welcome respite from an unwelcome routine, a rehabilitation that served as a constant reminder that he was missing out. He was missing out on a season to remember, in which the Chargers turned a dismal 2-3 start into 12-3 record seemingly overnight.

    While he was happy for backup Scott Mruczkowski's success as a starter, Hardwick desperately wanted to get back into the mix. A pair of setbacks kept him from doing so, prolonging the agony of a rehab gone wrong. But after Mruczkowski was lost with a season-ending ankle injury during the game-winning drive against Cincinnati, the Chargers could wait for Hardwick no longer.

    He rushed through his rehab's final stretch and, at long last, took the field against Tennessee. Those expecting a gradual return were surely surprised.
    Hardwick didn't skip a beat in the 42-17 victory. He was on point in all phases, including blitz calls and protection schemes. In many ways, it felt like Hardwick had been playing all season.:tup:

    "It's not like I forgot how to play football," Hardwick said. "I've done this a whole bunch of times, so I just went out and went through the motions. You just have to turn your brain off, stop worrying so much and go out and make things happen."

    While it's tough to evaluate offensive lineman live, Friday's game tape showed something astonishing. Hardwick controlled the line of scrimmage, improving the run game and pass protection by his mere presence.:tup:

    "He's an exceptional athlete and an outstanding football player," Turner said. "I don't know that when you put the tape on and compared it to one from this time a year ago that you could tell a difference."

    Those working with him were equally impressed.

    "I couldn't believe how well he played," left guard Kris Dielman said. "I expected him to play well, but he made calls and blocks as if he'd been working all season. You can't help but be impressed by a performance like that."

    While it wasn't all Hardwick, the Chargers gained 425 yards and averaged 4.2 yards per carry, a big improvement over their 3.3 yards-per-carry average this season. While his agility was back, and his football smarts never left. Hardwick performed a mental rep on every sideline snap, analyzing defenses and studying tape as if his ankle weren't confined to a protective boot.

    "He played great, which was surprising after missing so much time," right tackle Brandyn Dombrowski said. "We're coming down to the wire here, and Nick's clearly ready for the postseason."

    That was evident on Saturday morning when, for the first time since early September, Hardwick didn't need treatment. His ankle surprisingly felt better than it had in months. Turner's phone call was his only reminder of work that day, which was spent doing absolutely nothing.

    "I laid around, and spent the entire day on the couch," Hardwick said. "It was awesome."

    The Chargers are equally excited about the prospects of having Hardwick for the postseason, which starts in earnest after Sunday's game.

    "Nick has made great progress," Turner said. "We're fortunate to have him back."



    I just knew this team would be EVEN BETTER with Nick back in as center.:icon_toast:
  2. bigmike.x.09

    bigmike.x.09 Well-Known Member

    Oct 22, 2006
    Good! Which means he'll phuck up Washington this weekend, and get back to his nasty demeanor for the playoffs!!! :abq2:
  3. IFiredCHart

    IFiredCHart Well-Known Member

    Nov 25, 2009
    Mooch is a spectacularly-versatile backup lineman who has play any of the middle three OL positions well enough to keep up a first-class pass block, but he will never replace Nick's value to the running game, the leadership he brings to the table, and his general ability to make the two guards better players.

    Seriously, I hope we can keep both for a long, long time.

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