Longtime Chargers center Nick Hardwick has decided to call it a career, reports Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune. According to Gehlken, Hardwick will announce his retirement from the NFL on Tuesday.
“I’m nervous about tomorrow just because it’s so final,” Hardwick told Gehlken. “To declare your intentions publicly and vocally, it’s so final. But I’m also really excited. It’s going to be a really good celebration of a fabulous career. I’ve had a lot of fun, and I learned a lot. That’s where I am now, reflecting what I took from it.”
Hardwick, 33, has served as San Diego’s starting center since being selected by the Chargers in the third round of the 2004 draft, the same year that the team added Philip Rivers. Although injuries wiped out a pair of seasons for Hardwick, along with a handful of games here and there, the veteran lineman has still logged 136 games (all starts) for the Chargers.
This past season, a neck injury forced Hardwick to the injured reserve list after Week 1, wiping out a streak of 67 consecutive starts. Considering he had already mulled the possibility of retiring a year ago, and had endured a neck injury in the past, it’s not surprising that the Purdue alum would decide to end his career at this point. Hardwick’s contract also expires this winter, so the Chargers won’t carry any cap hit on their books for him in 2015.
While Hardwick won’t leave any money on the club’s cap, his departure will leave a significant hole in the middle of the Chargers’ offensive line. With Hardwick retiring and left tackle King Dunlap eligible for free agency, that line will be a priority for San Diego this offseason.