Montario Hardesty could still be ready for the opener Sept. 12 in Tampa, even though the Browns' rookie running back has missed all of training camp and most likely will skip Saturday's dress rehearsal game in Detroit with a sprained right knee.
"Yes, I would him expect him to [be ready for the season]," said coach Eric Mangini. "There's been no setback. Based on the plan that we had and the progress that he has made, my anticipation is that he'll be practicing again in the near future and ideally playing in the opener."
He said Hardesty might get some practice reps late this week, "but it's subject to change."
Hardesty is expected to sit out Saturday's game, in which starters normally play through the third quarter. For the final preseason game Sept. 2 against the Bears, starters usually only play a series or two, but the Browns are hoping it's a chance to get Hardesty some live action before the season begins.
Hardesty suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament on the same knee as a freshman in 2005 and had it drained last season. But he didn't miss any games in 2009, rushing for 1,345 yards and 13 TDs and catching 25 passes for 302 yards. With Hardesty out, Peyton Hillis is leading the team with 54 yards on 14 carries and Jerome Harrison is second with 38 yards on 12 carries.