Hardwick: Rivers ready for best year yet

In an interview with Mike Costa and Judson Richards of Xtra Sports 1360 AM radio, San Diego Chargers center Nick Hardwick did not mince words when asked about his expectations for quarterback Philip Rivers.

He believes Rivers will have the best year of his career in 2014. Hardwick said that played into his decision to return to playing field after an offseason mulling retirement.

"I can't imagine not playing with Philip this year because I truly believe this is going to be his best year of his whole career, from here on out," Hardwick said.

You can listen to the entire interview here. The conversation begins 20 minutes in.

Hardwick's lofty expectations for the 32-year-old Rivers are warranted based on his quarterback's impressive performance in his first season operating under coach Mike McCoy's offense in 2013.

And even though offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt moved on to be head coach with Tennessee, not much should change with quarterbacks coach Frank Reich taking over as San Diego's offensive coordinator.

The Chargers return everyone from last year's starting offense in 2014, and added another weapon in free agency in running back Donald Brown. And Rivers should be even more efficient with another year in McCoy's system under his belt.

"They obviously knew that they had a great mind and a great quarterback in Philip, and we want to use him as much as we can," Hardwick said. "Let his brain work on the field because it's completely capable.

"Frank Reich has said he's the smartest guy on the field when he's out there, and he certainly is. So let him see what he's seeing, give him flexibility and time to be able to change to the plays that he wants to change to, and he can make a lot happen."

Hardwick also discussed the process he went through in deciding whether he would play another season. Hardwick turns 33 years old in September.

"For the last four years I've always evaluated where I'm at," Hardwick said. "Where I want to be, my situation in life and where we are at financially. And how is my health most importantly, and am I having fun?

"Do I think football-wise can I contribute to a winning football team -- can I put a winning effort on the football field? Do I have enough energy to give throughout the week, and throughout the entire season to lead the team, to rally guys and to do what a center has to do to be effective? And can I live up to the standard I've set for myself?

"And after a month or two of evaluation, I can absolutely do that again, and I'm going to do that again."