Cleveland Browns rookie running back Montario Hardesty missed all of training camp and three preseason games leading up to his NFL debut. That is why there was some concern internally about how much workload Hardesty should receive before Thursday's season-ending knee injury against the Chicago Bears. Hardesty was placed on injured reserve Friday.
Browns head coach Eric Mangini said he met with president Mike Holmgren this week to discuss how to handle Hardesty, who was coming off a right knee injury. Even though Hardesty had no contact this summer, Mangini and Holmgren eventually determined it was best to give him a heavy workload.
The rookie went down in the first half after seven carries.
"I sat down with [Holmgren] and talked about it. It's a tough decision," Mangini said Thursday night. "You want to be able to see a guy, you want to make sure that he's prepared to play in the opener and do the things that he needs to do. You're also concerned about the volume of work he's been able to have up to that point."
The loss hurts Cleveland, but fortunately the team is deep at running back. Jerome Harrison and Peyton Hillis will be the team's primary rushers and James Davis is the team's third tailback. The Browns should still be able to run effectively this season.
Although it's very easy to question the Hardesty decision in retrospect, the Browns shouldn't be at fault for making this call. Thursday was Cleveland's last chance to see Hardesty before the regular season, and the coaching staff needed to gain trust in the rookie for when the games matter.
Injuries are an unpredictable part of the NFL that you cannot coach against.