Rookie RB Montario Hardesty left Cleveland's final preseason game with a left knee injury, and ESPN.com reported Friday that he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and will miss the season. The injury to Hardesty leaves Jerome Harrison likely to be the starter and the favorite to garner the majority of the carries in the backfield. Harrison thrived as Cleveland's featured back at points last season, most notably late in the year.
Hardesty's injury also could lead to a bigger role for RB Peyton Hillis, who had a productive preseason. Acquired in the trade that sent Brady Quinn to Denver — a deal that has worked out well for Cleveland to this point — the 6-2, 250-pound Hillis can fill multiple roles, which is always a plus in the eyes of head coach Eric Mangini. Hillis, who can also play fullback, has shown some ability as a short-yardage runner, a skill even more valuable with Hardesty out.
After playing well in the spring, Hardesty missed the first three preseason games with a bone bruise in his right knee. He carried seven times for 25 yards and a touchdown against Chicago before suffering the injury to his left knee. Hardesty, whom the Browns drafted in Round Two in April, was expected to challenge Harrison for the starting job.
Hardesty, 23, sustained several injuries at the University of Tennessee. He tore the ACL in his right knee as a freshman in 2005 and had minor surgery on his left knee in May '06. He also suffered a stress fracture in his left foot in '08.
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