Hardesty answers the call

Posted Oct 14, 2012

Cleveland Browns running back Montario Hardesty made the most of his extended work on offense in Sunday’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Cleveland Browns running back Montario Hardesty did not have a single carry through the first five games of the 2012 regular season and did not even play in four of those contests, but he made up for lost time in Sunday’s 34-24 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Hardesty entered the lineup in place of starting running back Trent Richardson, who went out of the game with an injured flank. In Richardson’s absence, Hardesty rushed for 56 yards and his first NFL touchdown on a team-high 15 carries.

“Just being in there for a whole game, being able to get a feel for the game, getting a feel for the O-line, I was able to get a feeling and be patient,” Hardesty said. “I just tried to go in there and see if I could break one real quick. It was good. I think our offense got a little spark.

“I had some emotion pent up, but honestly, it wasn’t as much as I thought. When I got out there, I just wanted to help our team win and I was excited about playing football. This is what I’ve been doing my entire life. I just wanted to go out there and play how I know I can play.”

Hardesty’s first regular-season touchdown in the NFL put the Browns in front of the Bengals for good with 14:56 left in the fourth quarter. It was the second of four straight possessions that ended in points for the Browns.

With the Browns trailing, 14-13, entering the fourth quarter, Hardesty took a handoff from quarterback Brandon Weeden on second-and-goal from the one-yard line and hurdled the pile for the score.

“It took long enough,” Hardesty said with a smile. “I had two preseason touchdowns and no regular-season touchdowns, so that was good to get back into the end zone. It was just our goal line package. We had a short-yardage, dive play over the middle. The O-line told me they were submarining, so they were going down low. When they told me that, I knew I was going over the top. It was time for me to get in. I was mad I didn’t get in on the two plays before that. I just went over the top and we got in for the touchdown.”

In addition to his rushing totals, Hardesty caught a nine-yard pass and made several blocks when he was in on blitz protection for throws down the field.

Following the win, Hardesty’s teammates expressed an appreciation for his contributions in the win.

“You’ve got to love him,” Richardson said. “Montario, he’s a beast. It’s rare the way he plays ball. Montario’s one of those guys that’s going to do everything he can. Each and every play, Montario is out there working hard. He practiced hard all week. It doesn’t matter when his name is called. If it’s special teams, he’s in there.”

Quarterback Brandon Weeden added, “I told him he was one of the players of the game, just filling in for Trent. Trent takes a large load of what we do, but for Montario to come off the bench with basically very few reps and to play the way he did, put us in the situations he did, I thought he played great. I was really excited for him and that’s what we need. We need our guys that are backup guys to step up.”

After missing the early part of training camp in 2011 while rehabbing from a torn ACL, Hardesty was running well in this year’s camp and through the early part of the preseason, but fumble problems caused him to see more of a role on special teams.

Hardesty last played when the Browns fell to the Bengals, 34-27, on Sept. 16 at Paul Brown Stadium.

“I’ve just been sticking with it,” Hardesty said. “I haven’t been able to get a lot of reps, but I wouldn’t call it a down season. I made a mistake in the preseason by putting the ball on the ground. I’ve been working every week. I put a lot of work into this season, so I knew there would be time for me to come in at some point and I wanted to capitalize on it.

“It’s never easy. My whole road here has never been easy, so I don’t feel like any of it’s been hard because I’ve been through a lot to get here. It never bothered me. I just wanted to keep working.”

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