- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Hardin missed the entire 2011 season after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured shoulder. He also played with a broken hand in 2008 while dealing with a sprained wrist on the other arm. Given the amount of time Major Wright has missed in just two seasons, not to mention the fact Chris Conte was placed on IR last year with a foot injury, durability at safety is a serious concern.
All that being said, Hardin, a collegiate cornerback, is a physical 6-foot-3 defensive back who recorded a career-best 63 tackles in 2010. Bears general manager Phil Emery described Hardin as an aggressive player who "strikes" his opponents. He also, if healthy, projects to be a solid contributor on special teams, a role he manned early in his career at Oregon State.
Hardin is expected to be the Bears’ third and fourth safety and lineup primarily in the box at strong safety.
Even though the club re-signed veteran Craig Steltz to a two-year deal, the need for safety was obvious after the departure of Brandon Meriweather in free agency. Steltz and Hardin will be counted on to provide depth behind starters Wright and Conte, but both could be pressed into duty if either of the two first-team safeties suffer another injury or falter on the field, two entirely possible scenarios.
Emery told the media Friday night the organization gave Hardin "a good medical grade" and that he's "medically sound".
Hardin represents the ninth safety taken by the Bears since Lovie Smith became head coach in 2004. For the Bears’ sake, hopefully he's more of the Chris Harris and Danieal Manning variety, easily the two best safeties selected in that time frame, and less of the Kevin Payne or Al Afalava types who contributed early but never lasted more than a couple of seasons.