Kevin Hardy stood on crutches in the Jaguars' locker room and talked of his recent surgery on his left knee. Though it's a surgery that threatens Hardy's marketability in free agency this offseason, he remained cheery, even talking about using his marketing degree from Illinois.
"I can't walk on it for seven weeks. I don't know how long it's going to take to put strength back in it. Guys have had it and been able to come back and play at a higher level," Hardy said of the surgical procedure, which was performed by Colorado "surgeon of the stars" Dr. Richard Steadman.
The procedure is known as a "microfracture." It was created by Steadman, who has operated on the knees and restored the careers of such NFL notables as Rod Woodson and Bruce Smith.
Hardy had suffered significant cartilage damage in his left knee, which forced him to be placed on the Jaguars' injured reserve list earlier this month. Of course, Hardy is in the final year of his Jaguars contract and was looking forward to a big, free-agent contract in March.
The "microfracture" process is intended to stimulate the growth of cartilage. The growth period is lengthy and interested teams may take a "wait and see" approach to Hardy, but Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin did not agree.
"Kevin's record has been outstanding. People will look at his endurance over the years and go with that," Coughlin said.
Hardy's Jaguars contract will be voided on the next-to-last day of the current league calendar this season, which will expire at the end of Feb. He will become an unrestricted free agent at that time.
Might his recent knee surgery make it possible for the Jaguars to re-sign Hardy? "It would be a difficult thing," Coughlin said.
During a week that will end with the final home game of the season, which will be treated as a "farewell" appearance for several veterans who will be salary cap casualties this winter, Hardy was in somewhat of a farewell today. His appearance in the locker room, his first since undergoing the knee surgery in Colorado last week, had a farewell feel to it.
It was just another sign of the times in Jacksonville, where Hardy arrived in 1996 as the second pick of the NFL draft. Then, he was expected to become the Jaguars' defensive star of the future. Now, he would seem to be part of the Jaguars' past.