San Diego Chargers Center Nick Hardwick has started 103 games for San Diego since coming out of Purdue. Although tell-tale stats are few and far between for the 2006 Pro-Bowler, it is not presumptuous to call Hardwick’s value to the Chargers offense – Significant. He is the unquestioned leader of the San Diego offensive line.
As the one guy who touches the ball more often than the QB, the Center is often referred to as the lynchpin of many great offensive teams. Hardwick’s knowledge of every check and every scheme, every audible, and every protection package; is one of the key reasons Philip Rivers is so revered. Hardwick’s contribution has also played a major role in the Chargers success through his tenure.
Now, that could all just be a fuzzy memory.
San Diego travels to the Minnesota Vikings for Week 3 of the preseason, but Hardwick will be one of a handful of Chargers starters that will not make the trip due to injury. During this Tuesday’s practice against the Dallas Cowboys, Hardwick suffered a concussion. Although he is considered day-to-day, there are far too many unknowns to determine a legitimate timeline for his return.
For Hardwick however, there is an all too familiar ring to this story.
The nine year veteran briefly considered retirement this off-season, after Kris Dielman, a four-time Chargers Pro Bowl Guard and Hardwick’s best friend, was forced to walk away from the game due to concussions in March. Ultimately Hardwick chose to sign a three year deal to stay in San Diego and figured to be the Chargers’ man in the middle for the near future. Now Hardwick is much more concerned with being able to remember his address in 5 years than he is about preseason run-blocking assignments.
The severity of Hardwick’s injury has yet to be released and thus all of the hand-wringing in San Diego, well-intended as it may be, remains futile. The only fact that does stand out in this situation is that Nick Hardwick is getting a long look at his own mortality – While Chargers fans may be bracing for a changing of the guard… Or Center as the case may be.
Todd Coshow is a Chargers Columnist for rantsports.com. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow Todd on twitter @TC_Coshow