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Marla Ridenour on Sports

Browns gamble and lose on Hardesty

By Marla Published: September 3, 2010

Running back Montario Hardesty will miss his entire rookie season with what ESPN's Adam Schefter reports is a torn left anterior cruciate ligament.

The Browns placed Hardesty on injured reserve late Friday, ending his season, but gave no details.

The injury will revive criticism of the Browns' trade that brought the oft-injured  University of Tennessee standout. The Browns gave the Philadelphia Eagles a third-round pick and two fifth-rounders to get the second-round selection (59th overall) they used on Hardesty.

Now it looks like three picks were wasted by a team that is at least two years away from playoff contention and needs all the depth it can get. Perhaps the Browns were swayed by former Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin, who was so impressed with Hardesty in the one year Kiffin spent in Knoxville that he told NFL scouts who came to USC last year that Hardesty was the real deal.

But with what could be a career-threatening injury for Hardesty, it appears general manager Tom Heckert gambled and lost in his first Browns' draft.

Players selected just after Hardesty in the second round included Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate (Seattle), UMass tackle Vladimir Ducasse (N.Y. Jets) and Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes (New England). The Bengals took Texas receiver Jordan Shipley, a training camp and preseason standout, 21st in the third round.

On draft day there were plenty of questions about Hardesty, who tore his right ACL during his freshman year at Tennessee and had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee at the end of that season. But he pointed out that since the torn ACL in 2005, he had missed only two games with a sprained ankle.

Hardesty was seeing his first preseason action after missing training camp with a bone bruise in his right knee. He went down after making a cut on a 2-yard run in Thursday night's victory over the Chicago Bears.

The loss of Hardesty means Jerome Harrison must prove his dominating performance in the final four games of 2009 was just the tip of the iceberg. He must also shore up his fumbling woes from the preseason. The acquisition of running back Peyton Hillis in the Brady Quinn trade with Denver looks more brilliant by the day. James Davis, who played only two games as a rookie due to shoulder surgery, will also get a major chance to contribute. Don't rule out the Browns scouring the waiver wire for more help with final cuts this weekend, especially if there's a back who's a big contributor on special teams, which has been coach Eric Mangini's major criticism of Davis.

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