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Hardesty ready to compete

Posted May 30, 2012

Browns running back Montario Hardesty looks forward to competing for carries in the team’s West Coast offense.

Cleveland Browns running back Montario Hardesty is finally where he wants to be -- healthy and able to practice with the full team.

A year ago, Hardesty was still recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament which he suffered in the 2010 preseason finale that wiped out his rookie season. In his second year in the NFL, Hardesty started four of the 10 games he played for the Browns and ran for 266 yards on 88 carries.

“The biggest thing is, I’ve been able to go back and train how I train in the offseason, get fully confident and go out there and push myself, things I couldn’t do last year,” Hardesty said Wednesday. “I was hurt. I missed a year and last year, I was hurt. I’m not going to dwell on that at all. It was something that I had to go through. I got through it and now, I’m healthy. I’m ready to come here and compete for a spot on this team.”

In April, the Browns drafted former University of Alabama running back Trent Richardson and that was just fine with Hardesty.

Hardesty told the media following Wednesday’s organized team activities session at the team’s Berea headquarters that he welcomes the challenge of competing with Richardson, Chris Ogbonnaya, Brandon Jackson and Adonis Thomas for carries.

“There is plenty of work for two backs in this league, especially in our conference, the way the teams pound the ball,” Hardesty said. “You can look at every team from top to bottom and see that. It’s good for our team and our running back situation. I think Trent is a good back. There’s going to be competition and I think competition brings out the best in everyone. We’re going to have a competition in our backfield and that’s only going to make our team better. I’m excited about it actually.”

Last year, the Browns suffered through a rash of injuries at running back. Hardesty missed time with a calf injury, while former Brown Peyton Hillis lost several games to illness and injury. Jackson, one of the team’s three free agent acquisitions in the abbreviated offseason, was lost for the year with a toe injury early in the preseason.

Ogbonnaya was on the Houston Texans’ practice squad when the Browns signed him to their active roster when the injuries started to pile up at running back.

Now that all of the Browns running backs are healthy, coach Pat Shurmur and the Browns’ front office have an opportunity to see what they can do at full speed.

“I think they’re getting their reps, but the reps that they’re getting, they can be fresh because there’s a lot of them right now and they all look quick,” Shurmur said. “I think Montario looks good. Brandon Jackson looked quick to me and Chris Ogbonnaya is very consistent. He also looked like he gave himself a good chance to compete.”

Even with the crowded backfield, Hardesty is looking forward to showing what he can do with the ball in his hands.

“I go out and play football,” said Hardesty. “I think I can do a lot of things in the game, run the ball between the tackles, outside, catch passes. Last year, I dropped passes out on the wing and that’s something I’d never done before. That was something new for me, so I’ve been working on that a lot and getting back to being an all-around player so I can help the team win. I’m ultra-competitive. I just want to go out there, compete and win.”