In a season where a host of players have been lost for the season to injury the Bills will have one player a step closer to returning to the active roster. Second-year wide receiver James Hardy is expected to practice beginning Wednesday.
"We anticipate that James will be ready to go (this) week," head coach Dick Jauron told Buffalobills.com. "And unless something unexpected occurs that he will begin practicing."
At the beginning of the regular season Hardy was close to being back to full strength after tearing his ACL in last season's Week 14 game against the Jets. His knee was stable and healthy, but what was lacking was stamina.
"It was just the consistency where I can perform day in and day out and practice at the speed and caliber that (my teammates) do," said Hardy. "I had to show I could do it for a long period of time."
Hardy has spent the first six weeks of the season on the Reserve/PUP list which prohibits him from practicing in any way with the team during that time. He is permitted to attend practices, which he often did before conducting his own workouts after the team had left the field.
Over the past month and a half Hardy has gone from working out on his surgically repaired knee for 20 to 25 minutes to much longer durations of time consistent with the length of a typical practice. He's also at a point now where he can practice day after day instead of giving his knee time to recover in between workouts.
"They wanted it to be three or four days in a row without any soreness at all the next day," Hardy explained.
Hardy is returning at the earliest possible time allowed under league rules for a player placed on Reserve/PUP, which is at the conclusion of Week 6. Provided he does in fact practice on Wednesday it will begin a 21-day window in which the coaching staff can evaluate his progress and readiness to return to the active roster.
During the 21-day period the team does not have to make a roster move until the conclusion of Week 9 (Nov. 9). At that point the team has to make a decision to either activate Hardy to the 53-man roster or place him on injured reserve effectively ending his season.
In all likelihood the Bills coaching staff will have him practice for a couple of weeks to see how his knee responds to the daily rigors of the practice before making a roster decision. But at any time during that three-week period if they feel he's ready he can be activated.
Of course the Bills would then have to move another player off the roster to make room for Hardy. And that could prove to be a difficult decision. Buffalo currently has six receivers on the roster and adding Hardy would make it seven, an unusually high number at that position.
At this point that decision is a little ways off, but to say Hardy is anxious to return to the roster would be an understatement.
"Now we've got T.O. here and I want to go out there and practice and put everything that he's shown me in the film room onto the field," said Hardy.
On Wednesday Hardy should get that chance.