Reporting Daryl Ruiter
BEREA (92.3 The Fan) - Cleveland Browns running back Montario Hardesty is getting used to having to bounce back.
He did it once again Thursday night in Green Bay – except this time there was no injury involved.
The game against the Packers could not have started off any worse for Hardesty who committed the ultimate sin – fumbling on the first offensive snap.
“I haven’t fumbled a ball since I was in high school, so I just wanted to get over that play, come back and just respond,” Hardesty said. “I felt like I owed the offense and the team something for giving up that turnover, and they went down and scored. So I felt like I had to come back and I owed the team something.
“I just wanted to come back and run hard.”
It took the Packers 3 plays to turn it into 7 points.
To coach Pat Shurmur’s credit, he put the ball right back in Hardesty’s hands on their next offensive play.
It turned into a 9-yard carry off the right side.
“I really didn’t let [the fumble] bother me,” Hardesty said. “I was ready to move to the next play.”
Hardesty recovered nicely from the disastrous start to run for 45 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown.
Shurmur was impressed with how Hardesty responded and the 3.8 yards per carry average considering that there wasn’t much running room.
“Individually I think he responded well, he ran very hard,” Shurmur said. “There were some times when there wasn’t much daylight and he got us four yards. ‘Okay, there’s not much here,’ so he kind of sliced it up in there. He had some good hard runs. He seemed like he handled the pounding pretty well.”
Recovering from adversity is something that Hardesty is used to.
He’s returned from a pair of knee injuries since being drafted by the Browns in the second round in 2010.
After a solid training camp, his rookie year came to an end in the preseason finale against Chicago and was placed on injured reserve the next day.
Last season he played in 10 games, started 4 of them, but the knee injury lingered as he ran for 266 yards on 88 carries. He also caught 14 passes for 122 yards.
Now he’s 100 percent healthy and looking quick, strong and agile.
“I feel good,” Hardesty said. “For right now, coming to the third, fourth week of training camp, my body still feels good. And it’s still real fun to come out here and play football. I haven’t been able to do this. Last year, I wasn’t able to come out to practice everyday and go through preseason games. So I’m taking it all in stride. I’m having fun coming out here everyday, and just practicing and playing with the guys.”
The first play of the second quarter went much better for Hardesty. He ran off right guard for a 1-yard touchdown that put the Browns in front 13-7 and the Browns never looked back.
They went on to run the Packers off the field 35-10 to improve to 2-0 in the preseason.
While the games don’t count, 2 wins in 2 preseason games for a team predicted to win 2 games the whole season has a few surprised – but not Hardesty.
“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised, because I felt like I could tell a complete difference from last year’s practice to this year,” Hardesty said. “This is our second year in the offense for a lot of the guys. And last year, we were kind of coming off the streets, coming from the lockout and we had a game in a week and a half. So I think that learning curve, we’ve already been past that now. Also, I think we have some good leadership.
“We’ve been practicing good and we have a lot of guys that want to win so I think that’s showing up on the field.”