After being placed on Reserve/PUP at the beginning of the regular season, James Hardy had a giant 'X' on his calendar for Monday Oct. 19. He wouldn't be practicing with his teammates on that day, but he knew it would be the first day where he'd feel like part of the team again. With the team's Week 6 game in the books he was eligible to do more than just sit in the meeting rooms with his teammates. The only problem was after an overtime win Sunday, head coach Dick Jauron gave the team a day off.
"Here I am all excited to get this week started and get a good workout in with my teammates in the weight room, and I was in here at eight this morning and nobody was here because they got the day off," said Hardy chuckling.
It's been a long nine months of rehabilitation for Hardy, but his surgically repaired knee is ready for practice and the training staff has given him the green light to rejoin his teammates on the field Wednesday.
"I'm just so anxious to get back out there that I didn't want to do too much before I'm actually out there," Hardy told Buffalobills.com. "The last couple of weeks I was just trying to make sure I had my conditioning up."
Truthfully Hardy could not possibly do any more than he has to get ready for the daily grind of the practice week. Though his knee didn't have the stamina it needed at the beginning of the regular season, which is what landed him on Reserve/PUP in the first place, his knee is strong now.
"It was just about getting the consistency down," said Hardy. "Trying to run consistent day after day without having any soreness and I'm there."
Hardy said he was able to go three to four days in a row of working on it without any residual soreness by about Week 3 of the regular season. Being on Reserve/PUP Hardy was allowed to watch practice, but in no way was he permitted to participate for the first six weeks of the season. So he made sure he put in work comparable to what his teammates were doing.
"I've been working every day," he said. "I'm on the stairmaster and running and doing pool workouts while the guys have been practicing. It's still going to take me a minute to transfer it over to the football field. That's going to be the hard part, but I've done everything that I can possibly do to get ready for it. Now I'm just ready to go out and do it."
Under the Reserve/PUP rules Hardy was allowed to sit in on all of his position meetings and offensive team meetings. In an effort to stay sharp with his assignments and keep his mind up to speed with the weekly game plans Hardy followed along as best he could.
"Obviously, I have the same playbook," Hardy said. "When the team would leave on Saturdays I would still have my playbook from the game plan week and I would watch the game and go through the game plan with my playbook. That's why I would keep it with me through Monday. I did that each and every week."
And though he's not on the active roster yet he plans to continue that way until he is activated. Hardy's participation in Wednesday's practice will begin a 21-day window where the coaching staff can evaluate his progress without having to make a roster move. Any time between Wednesday and the end of that 21-day window (Nov. 10) Dick Jauron and his offensive assistants can decide to either put Hardy on the 53-man roster or place him on season-ending injured reserve.
In all likelihood he'll be added to the roster meaning another player will have to be waived. The receiver position is very crowded right now with six currently on the roster. Hardy would make seven, an unusually high number at that position. What the staff decides to do remains to be seen, but there's time to make that call.
"Coming in from being out for so long they're going to ease me in and not just throw me out there," said Hardy. "After talking with them and how they showed me how they're going to ease me back into it I feel I'll be fine. I know what I'm doing, so it's just going out there, getting a couple of balls my way and making some plays."
In an effort to get ready for the transition back to the practice setting Hardy has been running routes religiously on his own. After practices when Buffalo's quarterbacks are not burdened with heavy throwing days Hardy has asked them to throw to him to help maintain some semblance of timing.
That's why Hardy will step on the field Wednesday with his mind completely at ease. He knows his knee is ready and he knows he's done everything in his power to make his shift back to the regular season grind a smooth one.
"I can play loose and play the game," said Hardy. "I've done all I can do to be ready for this time."