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Chargers' Hardwick: 'I'm ready to have my best season yet'

San Diego Chargers center Nick Hardwick's brief flirtation with the idea of retirement was just that -- brief.

Hardwick told U-T San Diego on Monday that he'll be back on the field for the 2012 season after telling reporters in December that he was considering retirement.

All it took was a two-week break at home after the end of the season to give Hardwick the itch to get back to work.

"That let me know right there," Hardwick said. " … I feel great. I've been training my butt off since then. I'm ready to have my best season yet."

Hardwick, 30, has started 103 games at center for the Chargers since 2004. Hardwick is set to become a free agent next month, and the newspaper reported that his mention of a possible retirement could have hurt his leverage in negotiations. Hardwick, however, was adamant that football remains a top priority.

"My commitment is full throttle," Hardwick said. "I just think you have to re-assess yourself all the time -- assess how you're progressing, assess where you stand. I'm more excited right now than I've been in a long time to train."

Hardwick also told the newspaper he still views the Chargers as his team and he'd like to stay in San Diego.

"I obviously have a lot of best friends in that building, including on the coaching staff," Hardwick said. "I'd certainly like (to stay). I hope I'm in their plans. If not, we're ready to go on."

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