|Jeffrey Beall, Wikimedia Commons|
Hardwick told U T San Diego that he "expects to play next season," and that he is "excited about it." Hardwick first spoke of retirement earlier in the season after suffering painful injuries to his head and neck. He spoke candidly about needing time off before making a final decision, and after a month of vacation time, the fan-favorite has decided against a beach-heavy lifestyle.
“I wanted to take a month off where I didn’t have to think about football,” Hardwick said. “I just wanted to be honest with where my body is, where my brain is, where we’re at and where we want to go. Just give an honest assessment. My body feels great. My brain feels great. I do think there’s better football ahead of me.”Hardwick is a veteran cog on the Chargers' young offensive line, and has excellent rapport with quarterback Philip Rivers. Losing Hardwick to retirement would have been a huge blow for the Chargers, and it is also worth noting that running back Ryan Mathews experienced growth at the end of the year with Hardwick calling the shots up front.
The Chargers can ease their minds on addressing the center position in this year's NFL Draft, but will be prudent and snag a talented young player late in the draft with the hope that he can develop behind the savvy Hardwick.
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