Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hardy Battles to Learn Quickly

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hardy Battles to Learn Quickly

Article excerpt

Think and then react has always been the way for Kevin Hardy.

Now, though, he's thinking far too much. The Jacksonville

Jaguars' rookie linebacker from Illinois says too much thinking

and not enough reacting has slowed his progress thus far in his

first NFL training camp.

Hardy, the Jaguars' firstround pick this year, and future

cornerstone of the defense, admittedly has had a tough time

picking up the intricacies of the NFL game.

That, in turn, has slowed his ability to make plays in the first

week of his first NFL camp.

"I kind of started off slow," said Hardy, who has been the

starting strongside linebacker since the day he was drafted.

"That's because I was thinking too much. I was concentrating on

what I was trying to do instead of relaxing and playing football.

"At this point, I don't feel like I'm playing with that

aggressiveness, that intensity, of pressing the line. I'm kind

of holding back, trying to read and make sure I'm going in the

right place."

The scrutiny of being the second overall pick can be tough.

Hardy says that's not a problem because he won't let it be.

"There's pressures there if you want to put it on yourself," said

defensive end Jeff Lageman, who was the No. 1 pick of the New

York Jets in 1989. "If he allows the pressures, then they are

there."

As a rookie linebacker, the slow start is to be expected. At

Illinois, where the 6-foot-4, 247-pound Hardy won All-America

honors in 1995, the defenses weren't nearly as complicated.

Hardy knew his role thoroughly.

"I was so comfortable with my position there, playing outside

linebacker, because I knew everything there is to know about

outside linebacker," said Hardy. "Right now, I don't know my

position. And I'm learning middle linebacker in the nickel. That

makes it tough."

Despite being slowed by the learning process, Hardy still has

shown the signs of being a big-time NFL linebacker. Playing over

the tight end much of the time, he has done a solid job of

holding up the tight end on pass routes and holding contain on

the run.

In addition, his pass drops are the kind you would see from

strong safeties, not strong-side linebackers. …

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