Bears' Hardin: Injury looked worse than it was
Rookie safety who missed senior season in college, calls neck injury another test of his patience
By Brad Biggs and Vaughn McClure, Chicago Tribune reporters
9:46 p.m. CDT, September 20, 2012
It looked worse than it was when Brandon Hardin was carted off Soldier Field with a neck injury in the second exhibition game Aug. 18.
More than a month later, the third-round draft pick is dealing with the disappointment of being on injured reserve for his entire rookie season as much as he is the injury. Hardin suffered a sprained neck when he attempted to tackle Redskins tight end Logan Paulsen. Although he had full movement, protocol was for him to be taken to an ambulance on a backboard.
"It's that drama factor of, 'He's getting carted off the field.' It makes it look really bad and it could have been really bad for all they knew," Hardin said in his first interview since the injury. "The (training staff) knew I could function and move, but they weren't about to let me get up and walk off the field. So there was all sorts of protocol they had to follow to ensure my safety."
Hardin is no longer wearing a brace and said "physically, I feel great." Doctors waited for muscles in his neck to relax before they completed tests. Now, he's doing all the work in the classroom he can and staying active in the gym. He just cannot practice. It's similar to last year when the safety missed his senior season at Oregon State after a shoulder surgery.
"It's just another test of my patience," Hardin said. "I made it through one of these already and I have all the confidence that I am going to ... come back next year and contribute to this team and do what they brought me here to do."
Underneath machine: Bears cornerback Charles Tillman is well aware of what Rams receiver Danny Amendola accomplished last Sunday, tying a St. Louis record with 15 catches (160 yards) in a 31-28 victory over the Redskins.
"He had a good day," Tillman said. "Who's to say he can't do it again? He probably can. He's playing good football right now. His quarterback is feeding him the rock and he's capitalizing on his opportunities, so kudos to him."
But just because the 5-foot-11, 188-pound Wes Welker clone leads the NFL with 20 receptions through two games doesn't mean the Bears will alter their defensive game to stop Amendola. When he lines up to the left, he'll face Tillman. When he goes right, it's Tim Jennings. And in the slot, nickel back D.J. Moore will get a chance to defend him.
The Bears expect Amendola to move around. To prepare, they have asked Dane Sanzenbacher to play that role on the scout team in practice.
Tricky stuff: A week after surrendering a touchdown on a fake field goal, the Bears are bracing for a bag of tricks from the Rams and special-teams coach John Fassel, who was with the Raiders last season when Oakland ran three fake punts and two fake field goals.
"We had a block called," Toub said of the 27-yard touchdown pass from Packers holder Tim Masthay to Tom Crabtree. "We would do the same thing again. What we're going to do better next time, and really it was my fault, we're going to make sure if they do run a fake that we are dialed in for the fake and we know how to stop it, no matter what we have called. We need to be able to stop that."
Health beat: Running back Matt Forte (right ankle) remained sidelined and is unlikely to play Sunday. Defensive end Julius Peppers (foot) returned to practice. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (coach's decision) was held out. He practiced Monday and Wednesday.
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