Hardwick Returns to Chargers Broadcasts

Longtime center changes his mind, will remain part of the franchise in 2017

The Chargers are shaking up their broadcast team for the 2017 NFL season, their first in Los Angeles since 1960. Longtime radio play-by-play man Josh Lewin will not be returning.

Lewin was a San Diego Chargers fan favorite during his 12 years at the microphone. His calls of LaDainian Tomlinson’s record-setting 2006 season will echo in the ears of the Bolts faithful for years. Josh addressed the fan base in a pair of tweets on Monday:

“The Chargers have decided they want a fulltime LA announcer so a wonderful run ends today. Will happily continue w/Mets and UCLA and will cherish my memories of serving Chargers fans these last 12yrs. Thank you for everything Bolts fans, you're the best!”

He chased that with the hashtag #NFLfreeagent and it’s likely he will have other professional football suitors in the coming years.

It’s interesting that the Chargers would suddenly want a “fulltime LA announcer” when Lewin is working with UCLA and was never a “fulltime SD announcer.” He split duties with the Texas Rangers, then New York Mets, and the Chargers before adding the Bruins last year. He will continue to live part of the year in San Diego.

So who is replacing Lewin for game broadcasts on KFI AM-640 in L.A.? That would be Matt “Money” Smith (I know, Dean Spanos hiring someone with the nickname “Money” is dripping with irony). Smith certainly knows the NFL, though.

Smith is co-host of the nationally syndicated Petros & Money Show and has been a member of the Los Angeles media for two decades. He also works for NFL Network as a fantasy football and NFL Draft analyst. Smith will take on play-by-play duties alongside … and Chargers fans will likely be surprised to hear this … former center Nick Hardwick, who will be back for another season as the radio color analyst.

When the Chargers left San Diego for Los Angeles, Hardwick said he would not follow them because he was staying loyal to the community that welcomed his family with open arms when he was drafted out of Purdue in 2004. Already one of the most popular players in franchise history, his stand against the franchise earned him even more fans.

In a text conversation with NBC 7 SportsWrap, Nick explained his change of heart:

“My emotions about the whole situation subsided and I came to the realization that ... I'll never stop caring about the team I captained for five seasons and literally broke my neck for. Being a San Diegan and being a Charger fan aren't mutually exclusive. I can't help the way I feel. It took a lot of soul searching on this one but I'd be lying to myself if I didn't admit I love the game of football and I love the Chargers. I'm aware this decision may upset some people. I completely understand the emotions around this situation. But, I must be true to myself. This in no way is a commentary on San Diego or San Diegans. This is me and my family following our hearts and souls. I think it's all we can do in life.”

Hardwick's neck injury cut his career short just one game in to the 2014 season. He still has close relationships with many of the players on the roster.

That kind of an emotional history is difficult to keep at bay. Hardwick, who continues to co-host the popular Hardwick and Richards show with Judson Richards from 6:00-9:00 a.m. on XTRA 1360, is well aware of the emotion involved and knows there will be a public backlash that he will address like he addresses everything else: head on and with honesty.

The Chargers also announced their preseason TV broadcast team. Spero Dedes and Chargers Hall of Famer Dan Fouts will handle three exhibition games on ABC7 in Los Angeles. The fourth game will be a national TV game on CBS against the Rams on August 26.

The Chargers do not yet have a radio or TV broadcast agreement with any San Diego-based stations for 2017, another example of how they are trying as hard as they can to forget America’s Finest City even exists.

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