CINCINNATI – The fact Chandler Harnish went through this unimaginable stress a year ago doesn't make it any easier.
Harnish will wait to hear today from his Indianapolis Colts coaches about whether he's on the 53-man roster or off it. His career is in the balance. The wait is just as bad as you might expect.
“I would be lying if I said I didn't hate it,” Harnish said Thursday after playing three quarters in the Colts' 27-10 preseason loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. “Especially for a guy like myself, who is kind of on the bubble right now – I think that's pretty obvious -- you have to go to a positive mindset and continue your routine every day and get better and not think about it.”
The final preseason game, Harnish's most extensive playing time, was far from smooth.
It ended relatively well, as he directed a 16-play, 82-yard scoring drive – hitting Dominique Jones for a 7-yard touchdown. But it was pretty much a nightmare before that.
“That's the game of football,” he said. “You have to be mentally tough to be able to bounce back. The players that stick in this league are the ones that can bounce back, next-play mentality, and that's what I'm working on.”
Matt Hasselbeck started the game for the Colts, who rested most of their starters. He directed two series and set up an Adam Vinatieri field goal.
It was Harnish's game to quarterback after that. The Bengals weren't exactly cordial hosts.
Harnish was drilled on a sack in his first series by Bengals linebacker J.K. Schaffer. He was also sacked in his second series, guilty of holding the ball too long looking for a receiver. He then short-armed a pass to Jabin Sambrano.
Harnish had a little better series his third time out, hitting Griff Whalen on a 6-yard pass for a first down. But the drive fizzled after a penalty.
Then his first series in the third quarter ended with Harnish being picked off by Schaffer on a throw over the middle. Again, Harnish appeared to come up short on the throws. Sometimes when it rains, it pours.
“I made a couple throws that don't exemplify who I am as a player,” Harnish said. “I turned the ball over, just a bad play all in all. I know I'm the toughest critic on myself, but that just can't happen, not in this league. It really kind of put the game out of hand and that's on me.”
At that point, Harnish was 2-for-6 for 8 yards passing and a 2.8 passer rating. It was as close to rock bottom as a quarterback can get.
His coaches and teammates “had his back,” Harnish said, and lifted his spirits heading back onto the field.
That's when Harnish directed the long scoring drive, helped by the running of Kerwynn Williams (who had about half of his 92 yards rushing). Harnish hit all five of his passes in the series.
“(Cincinnati) did a heck of a job and certainly in all three phases played much better than we played,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “We just really couldn't get anything started. One positive, I think, was the (16-)play drive in the second half to get a score on the board.”
Harnish finished the game 8-of-13 passing for 55 yards and a 64.6 passer rating.
Even with the final drive, Harnish labeled the day “disappointing.”
A year ago, Colts coaches kept him on the opening-day roster as the third quarterback. He later went to the practice squad. The Colts have until 6 p.m. Saturday to finalize their 53-man roster.
Harnish is waiting again.
“I'll talk to my closest friends and family, but social media, I'll stay away from,” he said. “You have to keep a positive mindset. ...You don't want to drive yourself crazy. You want to continue your normal routine."
One of Harnish's best assets is his attitude. He remains upbeat even in the most trying circumstances. He'll be fully tested on that today.