KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The toll that NFL players take on their body can extremely discomforting. Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman knows that all too well.
The beloved receiver is back in Kansas City on his second stint after a trade with the New York Jets,
On Thursday, he shared more about the injury that ailed him last season, which was listed as an abdominal/groin injury.
Hardman said the injury occurred during the Chiefs’ Week 9 Sunday night game against the Tennessee Titans. On a punt return late in the fourth quarter, Hardman got twisted up in a tackle and was on the ground for a moment.
He finished the game with seemingly no problems with six catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.
The next day, he was playing video games when, around 2:30-3 p.m., he caught a cramp in his stomach.
“I was playing the game, felt some discomfort, got a cramp. I went to lay down, got up, and literally every hour it got worse, worse and worse,” Hardman said Thursday.
He called Chiefs head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder for advice.
“I call Rick and told him, I say, ‘Hey man, something ain’t right. I’m hurting.’ And he said, ‘If you get worse, call me back.’ I called him back like five minutes later,” Hardman said.
“I was in tears like, ‘Hey I can’t do this,’ and he was like ‘OK’. That’s when I got to the ER from my house, and my girl dropped me off and then after that, it started from there.”
Osteitis pubis was the official diagnosis, but each expert he spoke with had different opinions.
Osteitis pubis is inflammation in the joint between the left and right pubic bones (your pubic symphysis). It causes pain and swelling in the groin or lower abdomen.
It’s a type of symphysis pubis dysfunction that’s usually caused by repetitively using the hips, pelvis and groin.
Hardman said he was in the hospital for 10 days and couldn’t move his legs for about five days.
“Finally got the feeling back on my legs by like the sixth day, and I walked the next two days, couple of days and finally got discharged from hospital,” he said. “And then you know went on the road to recovery.”
Hardman missed 11 games after the Titans game, including the AFC Divisional game where the Chiefs beat the Jacksonville Jaguars to advance to the AFC Championship against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Hardman finally played in the AFC Championship where he said he was 65-70% healthy. He garnered two catches for 10 yards on 15 offensive snaps.
On his last play of that game, Hardman caught a pass for 11 yards and tore his groin.
“I ended up tearing my groin on that play, the last play I played, which was a blessing in disguise for me honestly, so I can really have surgery and repair everything,” he said.
Hardman dove into the details of his injury after some fans and critics labeled him injury-prone after missing most of the 2022 season.
“So people were saying injury prone. I’m like, ‘Man, listen, I played every game, never had a problem with injuries,” he said.
Hardman played in every game from when he was drafted in the second round in 2019 leading up to the 2022 season.
The 25-year-old has played in five out of six games this season with the Jets and was a healthy scratch for the game he missed.
“Of course, you have knick-knack injuries, but never nothing ever really kept me out or that I couldn’t play through,” he said. “But that one just so happened to be something I had to actually have surgery and be in the hospital for that where I couldn’t come back and play.”
Hardman said the scariest part of the experience was when he couldn’t use his legs for almost a week.
“Scary as hell,” he said. “Not being able to move your legs is like one of those things that make you just think like, ‘Is this it?’
“But then finally, obviously the feeling came back and the doctors was very, you know, particular: ‘It’ll come back just give it time.’ So that kind of gave me a little hope. But I know like the 10 days I was there, I think I slept maybe like eight hours, 10 hours max.
“I was in so much pain, man, and I got I just remember I think I could get medicine every two hours. So I will literally like get medicine and go to sleep for like 10 minutes, 15 minutes. Then I’ll look at a clock and just watch it go for the next hour and 40 minutes and like it’s as soon as two hours hit I’m like, ‘Hey, I need some medicine,'” he said with a laugh.
“So definitely one of the hardest parts, low points in my life, but I definitely got through it and I’m glad to be here.”
Hardman is thankful to be back in Kansas City, and so are the rest of his teammates and the Chiefs coaching staff.
“I had a great experience with him last year. I think we did as a team, as well,” offensive coordinator Matt Nagy said.
“He definitely provides another weapon for us to be able to do some things and see where he’s at, and then just kind of go from there as we game plan.”
Nagy isn’t sure what Hardman’s role will be until they see him in practice and see how much of the playbook he remembers.
Hardman said the playbook is pretty much the same for him except for a few new wrinkles and some new terminology.
His most immediate use will likely be as a returner since the Chiefs waived their previous returner Montrell Washington.
Hardman said he comes into Kansas City more mature after having worked with quarterback Aaron Rodgers throughout the offseason.
His injury hit him hard mentally since he was in the last year of his contract with the Chiefs, and he wanted to prove how good he was after the team traded star receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins.
He took the injury “as things happen for a reason” and that he became arrogant by playing to please himself.
Now he wants to play for the man upstairs who blessed him with his abilities.
“I think God just, you know, kind of like just sat me down and let me know like, you know, ‘I can take this game away from you anytime,'” Hardman said.
“Kind of when those things that you gotta you know, sit back and look at things that you’ve done and, you know, just kind of figure out what you was doing wrong, or where it maybe. Even though I was playing well, I think God still got the last say so in anything that you do, and I think that’s kind of what kind of hit me hard.
“I started to play this game for [God] and rather than for myself and what comes with it. So now just more so like man whatever happens happens but I’m just playing this game because I can because He allowed me to play it and whatever comes along with it comes along with it.”