Hardesty's wait continues

One of Tennessee's heralded young running backs already had waited 10 months to show the football world what he could do. Waiting another few days would be no big deal. Better safe than sorry, right?

Montario Hardesty hadn't carried the football in a game-type situation since last Oct. 1, when he suffered a season-ending knee injury vs. Ole Miss. After missing spring practice, he was understandably eager to take part in Tuesday night's scrimmaging. When Hardesty's knee buckled during pre-scrimmage warm-ups, however, coaches decided to hold him out as a precaution.

"It was scary for a second," Hardesty conceded following Wednesday's workout. "After a minute, though, I knew it was just a little tweak. But they decided to hold me out of the scrimmage. They said for me to get ready for Saturday's scrimmage, so that's what I'm going to do."

Hardesty, a 6-0, 205-pounder from New Bern, N.C., battled fellow freshman Arian Foster for the No. 2 tailback job behind Gerald Riggs last August and September, carrying six times for 18 yards before tearing his ACL. That was 10 months and 10 days ago, so he's understandably eager to carry the ball in Saturday's first full-scale scrimmage of the preseason.

"It's my first one in a while, so I can't wait," he said, grinning broadly. "I know it (knee) is going to be a little sore, might get a little swollen because this is the first time I've played football on it. I've just got to fight through it. I'll be fine."

The recovery from knee surgery is a two-step process. First, you recover physically, so the knee is as strong and flexible as before. Then you recover mentally, so you don't run tentatively. Hardesty has completed Step 1. He's still working on Step 2.

"I've been running and turning," he said. "The only thing is, I haven't been hit directly on my knee yet. If I get a low hit down there, that'll be the last thing (hurdle) I'm trying to do."

Asked if he feels the knee is "back" all the way, Hardesty shrugged.

"I feel good," he said. "I'm running full-speed. I'm just a little cautious with it, especially in the one-on-one drills."

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