Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

MAN ON A MISSION Jags' Hardy Tries to Take His Game to the Next Level

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

MAN ON A MISSION Jags' Hardy Tries to Take His Game to the Next Level

Article excerpt

Jaguars linebacker Kevin Hardy is featured in a Pepsi ad this

year, one that can be seen on the back of some of the soft-drink

company's delivery trucks.

There on the back of the trucks is a picture of Hardy with

these words: Take it to the next level.

Has any ad copy ever been more appropriate?

Hardy, now in his third season with the Jaguars, is entering

what just may be the most important season of his career. The

second player taken in the 1996 draft, with a future-star label

given to him at the time, Hardy is coming off a disappointing

sophomore season.

After a solid rookie year in 1996, Hardy came to camp out of

shape last summer and struggled to find the form he displayed

the year before. Then, after working his way back into shape, he

suffered a knee injury in the seventh game against Dallas and

missed three games. When he returned to the field, it was

obvious he was dragging the leg.

Hardy never publicly complained, but privately some in the

organization say he may have rushed back too soon. Hardy

declined an interview request for this story, however.

"I really don't have anything to talk about," he said.

Truth is, he has plenty to talk about.

Hardy is moving to a new position this season. The Jaguars

signed Bryce Paup as a free agent in February and he will play

Hardy's strong-side position, with Hardy moving to the

weak-side. It's a move Jaguars coaches feel will make their

defense much more competitive.

Hardy will no longer have to line up over the tight end, and,(

the Jaguars are hoping the move frees his athletic abilities to

better attack the quarterback. Hardy excels in coverage, and

this will also allow him to come off the corner without a tight

end responsibility.

"He's going to have to learn the position," said defensive end

Jeff Lageman. "And he's going to have to swallow his pride and

make the transition to it. …

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