Chargers place Nick Hardwick (neck) on season-ending IR. Final year of contract. 11-year veteran.— Michael Gehlken (@UTgehlken) September 10, 2014
During the preseason, I met up with a friend of mine who is friends with Nick Hardwick. He told me that Nick was having some neck/back issues all offseason long and "this is probably his last year."
It should come as no surprise, then, that the team has opted to put Hardwick on season-ending Injured-Reserve with a neck injury (this after he injured his ankle in the Week 1 game against the Arizona Cardinals).
This is the final year of Hardwick's contract, and he's been talked out of retirement at least once (he's one of those guys that wants to leave the game with the ability to walk without a cane), so expect a retirement announcement sometimes in the next six months from him. He will also probably go down in Chargers history as the best Center the team has ever had.
Philip Rivers, who is close friends with Hardwick and relies on him for calling out blitzes and blitz protections before each play, will feel this loss in the worst way. Rich Ohrnberger will probably step in to be the team's starting Center for the rest of this year, and Chris Watt looks like he might be groomed to take over at some point, but this injury will send ripples throughout the entire team.
As for whether Hardwick could be designated for return, I believe the team would have announced that while announcing this move to put him on IR. I wouldn't count on him being back in a Chargers uniform this year, or really ever again.