Committing to the Chargers cause

When center Nick Hardwick entered into a long-term commitment with the Chargers, it turned out to be his second such commitment of the offseason.                        

Hardwick and the Chargers agreed to a six-year extension recently, which came on the heels of Hardwick proposing to his girlfriend.

Hardwick, a third-round pick in 2004, is linked to the Chargers through the 2011 season. The fresh pact was worth a reported $5 million in bonuses and could average some $3 million over six years.

"I'm thrilled that I'm going to get to be here for a while," Hardwick said. "I love San Diego and have great relationships with my teammates. I'm looking forward to this team continuing to move in the right direction. We're going the right way and we're only going to get better."

The offensive line needs to improve if the Chargers are to make the playoffs for the second time since 1995. Hardwick and is cohorts wore down as the 2005 season wore on - an injury to veteran left tackle Roman Oben didn't help the cause, either.

But Hardwick is optimistic the line can rebound. If it does, it will do so under its third line coach in three years. Jack Henry has replaced Carl Mauck; Mauck had replaced Hudson Houck.

It's imperative Hardwick has a big year. He's responsible for barking out the blocking assignments, and being on the same page with his teammates has never been more important.

The Chargers will attempt to break in a first-year starting quarterback in Philip Rivers. And his confidence will be difficult to build if he's rocked too many times by pass-rushers.

But the Chargers think they have their anchor in the middle for years to come. Hardwick is set for the challenge, after adding some 20-25 pounds to his 6-foot-4 frame this offseason.

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