It would be completely understandable. It certainly shouldn’t come as a surprise if it ends up being the case. Nick Hardwick has completed his tenth year in the NFL with the Chargers and he is, again, contemplating retirement. Although I wasn’t too surprised he returned to give it another go in 2013, that sense of comfort is not in place for the 2014 season.
Hardwick had a Pro bowl-like campaign this past year. Despite not receiving enough votes to be named to the squad, he truly had a season that could have landed him in Hawaii. He was a constant on the offensive line that was so necessary. Though the offensive line as a whole had success, Hardwick was the glue that kept the unit together.
The Oline suffered numerous injuries throughout the year and Nick still did not miss even one start. In fact, he hasn’t missed a start since 2009. He left the week 13 contest against the Bengals with what was called a neck stinger and, eventually, a concussion. He returned the next week without missing a game and the Chargers went on a 4-game winning streak to end the regular season and make the playoffs.
Everyone knows the story of Kris Dielman and how he left the game. It is also known that Dielman and Hardwick are very close friends on and off the field. Dielman was, in a sense, forced to leave the game before he was done playing. It was almost as though the decision was made for him by the scary concussion/seizure that he sustained against the New York Jets in 2011. Sure, he could have kept playing but that was not what was determined to be in the best interest of him and his family. The move was absolutely respectable and he is still one of my favorite players to this day.
Another close friend of Hardwick’s happens to be Philip Rivers. They have a very strong bond as seen here. The duo entered the league together in the same draft class. Their connection and the success that they’ve shared together might be a factor in Nick’s final determination. When you look at the core vets on this team, Rivers, Hardwick, Antonio Gates and Eric Weddle, you can’t help but hope they all get one more shot together to obtain the ever-elusive Lombardi trophy as long as health is in the right place.
Hardwick, despite that late-season injury, walked away from the final 2013 game as healthy as could be expected after an NFL season that ended in the second round of the playoffs. Now he has been afforded an opportunity by the football gods to leave on his own terms or to return to play another year. You hear many players talk about wanting to walk away from the game on their own terms. They don’t want to hang around too long once their skills have diminished and they are shells of their former selves. This is one of the matters weighing on the mind of the center that has taken so many snaps in the last 10 seasons.
As I noted above, Hardwick had a solid performance this last year. It would appear that he is still near or at the top of his game. As a fan that happens to be a husband and a parent, I want him to do what he needs to do for his family. On the other side of the coin, as a fan that knows the Chargers might already need help on the offensive line even if Hardwick comes back, I hope he plays at least one more year.
This is obviously a situation worth keeping close tabs on for your San Diego Chargers. We’ll be doing our best to keep you updated on any rumblings that we hear regarding any news on the subject.
Thanks for reading.