Hardesty focuses on playing

Posted Jul 31, 2012

Montario Hardesty has changed his way of thinking heading into the 2012 season, his third with the Browns.

Stop thinking and start playing.

That is the approach third-year Cleveland Browns running back Montario Hardesty is taking into the 2012 season.

After tearing an anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during the 2010 preseason finale against the Chicago Bears and missing his entire rookie season, Hardesty had a delayed start to training camp in 2011 due to the recovery from surgery. He then fought through a calf injury and made four starts in 10 games last year. During his time away from the facility in the 2012 offseason, Hardesty changed his approach to the game.

“I’m 100 percent; I just feel good,” Hardesty said. “I don’t even think about the knee or anything like that. I just can go out and play football and not think about playing football. I think that’s what I was doing last year. I was thinking too much. I can just really go out, play the game and react, do things that I do. It’s just been fun getting back out there and playing.”

During the 2012 NFL Draft, the Browns traded with the Minnesota Vikings to select running back Trent Richardson with the No. 3 overall pick. Richardson, a product of the University of Alabama, ran for 3,130 yards and 35 touchdowns during his time in Tuscaloosa. Last year, Richardson ran for 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Having rushed for just 266 yards on 88 carries in his Browns career, Hardesty knows this time in training camp is his proving ground to the coaching staff.

“I’ve got to show them,” Hardesty said. “I looked myself in the mirror and said, ‘What can I do different?’ because I feel that was one of my worst years of football, physically and mentally last year. I looked in the mirror and told myself what I was going to get better at and I just took it upon myself to do those things because I don’t want to play football just to play. I want to be one of the good guys playing football and help our team win. That’s my mindset going into it.

“I feel like our team’s getting better every day. In those preseason games, as long as I can help our team, I’ll be out there. Man, I can’t wait.”

In preparation for the season, Hardesty dropped weight. He went from 225 pounds at the start of the 2011 season down to 215 heading into camp this year. As for the distribution of carries in a crowded backfield -- with Brandon Jackson, Chris Ogbonnaya and Adonis Thomas in the mix with Richardson and Hardesty -- Browns coach Pat Shurmur is hoping for a difficult choice because of good competition.

“He looks healthy and fresh right now, so I think that’s helping him flash,” Shurmur said of Hardesty. “That’s as quick as I’ve seen him. Let’s let it play out here and see, but that was as good as I’ve seen Montario look. He looks good and it’s a credit to these guys because that’s part of what excites me is these guys, number one, know how to get themselves ready and they made an effort to do it. As we go forward here to select our team, I want there to be tough decisions. That’s what you want until you establish a team that you feel, like as you move forward, is going to win games.”

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