Buffalo Bills wide receiver James Hardy needs to make an impression in his third season.
"My whole thing is, I like to fly below the radar," Hardy told me after Wednesday's double minicamp session. "I know people have their doubts about me. That's OK."
When considering the Bills' offense, Hardy often gets overlooked as the potential No. 2 option opposite Lee Evans.
The reason Hardy has been disregarded is that he enters his third NFL season with a scrawny body of work. Injuries have limited him to 16 games, three starts and 10 receptions for 96 yards.
The Bills had high hopes when they drafted him 41st overall out of Indiana University. He was the fourth receiver off the board, taken one slot ahead of Eddie Royal and seven ahead of DeSean Jackson. Hardy scored 36 touchdowns in 36 games for Indiana, where he also played basketball as a freshman.
He's a good-looking target who would appear to be a dream on third downs and in the red zone. He's 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds.
He got off to a promising NFL start. In Week 2 of his rookie season, he scored a 7-yard touchdown with 4:10 left to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars. By Week 5, he was starting. But he lacked the consistency to remain in the lineup and tore a knee ligament in the penultimate game.
Hardy started last season on the physically unable to perform list. He was activated in time for the Bills to fire head coach Dick Jauron. They also had Terrell Owens and weren't too interested in rushing Hardy back.
Due to Hardy's work during rehab and extensive community service work around Buffalo and in his hometown of Fort Wayne, Ind., his teammates voted him the Bills' representative for the Ed Block Courage Award.
"Yeah, I have a chip on my shoulder," Hardy said, "and I still feel like a rookie who still has to prove himself in many ways. But my expectations are just as high as when I came out of Indiana. I still plan on big things."