Gardner, who was last seen limping off the field in Michigan's regular season finale against Ohio State, is in the middle of quarterback competition this spring with sophomore Shane Morris and early freshman enrollee Wilton Speight. And coming off a year where he went 7-5 as starter, suffered a broken foot and struggled with consistency on the field, he is well aware of what's at stake this spring camp.
"It's a competition between me, Shane and Wilton," Gardner said. "And it's going great. Everybody is fiercely competing. That's what you expect from guys who want to play."
That competition, no doubt, was a major factor in Gardner getting back to the playing field ahead of schedule despite the injury.
"I feel like it was very important for me," Gardner said on being ready for spring camp. "But coach (Brady) Hoke said I was going to get the same shot if I were to come during camp. You know, whenever I was ready – he wanted me to come back."
On the plus side, Gardner is ahead of schedule with his foot injury and is running and participating in most drills. He says he sits out most drills involving jumping or stress on the mending foot. He is also wearing a protective brace during practice.
"I haven't taken any steps back as far as health is concerned," Gardner said. "I feel like I am getting better and better each day.
"Some drills may agitate it, but you know, it's not that I can't do them, but it's probably smarter not to do them. Just so you don't further injure yourself."
Despite the nagging injury, Gardner admits he doesn't have timetable when he will be fully 100-percent healthy.
"I don't know," Gardner said. "They said I probably wouldn't be 100-percent and wouldn't be able to participate much in spring ball – but here I am competing and running well, and doing what I can. I really don't know."
However, he did say he hopes to fully recovered for Michigan's home opener versus Appalachian State on Aug. 30.
"Whether I am 100-percent or not, I am going to compete with everything I got," Gardner said. "Hopefully I will be, that would be nice. By the season, I feel like I should be 100-percent."