The team said the veteran has started all 136 NFL games he’s appeared in since 2004, including 67 in a row.
“It’s hard and it’s still setting in,” he said in a news release. “I have a touch of shock I guess and I don’t really know how I feel right now. You’re programmed one way and through everything you’ve done you’ve always continued to push forward and push through to find ways to get on the field. Unfortunately for this season it’s not going to happen anymore.”
Hardwick, 33, said having to deliver the news to the team was hard.
“That’s always the worst part, right?” he said. “It’s certainly not fun. They’re who you do it for. You go through things with them, the ups and the downs, showing up early and leaving late, all the times you get to spend together; what you really do it for is each other. That’s why you’re able to push through so much. It’s for other guys that are also fighting through their own little deals, and they want to do it for you and you want to do it for them.
“That’s what makes it a special game.”
Hardwick has received numerous honors. He was named the Lineman of the Year three years in a row and was a Pro Bowl selection in 2006, and an alternate four times. He shared the team’s co-Most Inspirational Player award in 2013 and is a member of Chargers 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.
“Nick is a warrior; a true pro’s pro,” head coach Mike McCoy said. “We’ve been spoiled by his excellence over the years. Players with his physical skills, leadership ability and intangibles don’t come around every year. Nick is a special player to coach.”
The team said Rich Ohrnberger will take over as the starting center, but Hardwick offered him a vote of confidence.
“Rich is going to do a great job,” he said. “He’s a good leader, he plays hard and he plays tough. He fights out there and gives it everything he’s got. He’s going to do a great job moving forward.”