Hardwick, who turns 33 in September, used his time away from the team in the early portion of the offseason to assess his plans for football moving forward, after dealing with concussion and neck injuries in 2013. Hardwick played through those nagging injuries, and was the only San Diego offensive lineman to start every game last season.
“Honestly, I never even mentioned retirement,” Hardwick told Ricky Henne of Chargers.com. “I just said that this is the time of year I like to reflect on where I’m at, where I want to go and where my family is at. I don’t jump to any conclusions.
“I just want to have a good solid month to have a true assessment of where I’m at, how I’m playing and how I think I can get better. So, I never mentioned retirement. It surprised me a little bit how people started talking about it. I never expected it to take hold like that. But it’s ok. Like I said, each year I take a good month after the season where I don’t think much about football except to work out and stay in shape.”
Hardwick anchored an improved offensive line that did a better job of protecting Phillip Rivers and clearing rushing lanes for Ryan Mathews, who both had career seasons in 2013. Hardwick is set to make $4.4 million in total compensation for the upcoming season on the final year of a three-year contract.