By Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports activities NFC West Author
COSTA MESA, Calif. — Austin Ekeler factors to a rib bone that protrudes from his six-pack abs, a lingering impact from a fractured rib cartilage harm suffered 4 years in the past.
The Chargers‘ working again sustained the harm in a season-opening loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in his second yr within the league. He performed the next week, taking a pain-numbing shot and strapping on a thicker rib pad protector.
And he carried out nicely. Ekeler performed 23 snaps and completed with 98 scrimmage yards in a 31-20 win on the street towards the Buffalo Bills.
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“We have all been there earlier than, particularly guys which have been across the league,” Ekeler mentioned.
“I’ve performed with cracked ribs earlier than, too. Whenever you get to the sport and it is a game-day choice: Are you bodily in a position to go? Are you protected for essentially the most half bodily? After which are you able to endure what can doubtlessly occur, and might we get you to a spot the place you’ll be able to truly carry out? Quite a bit goes into it, and it is a day-to-day factor.”
Ekeler’s teammate, Chargers franchise quarterback Justin Herbert, will undergo the same course of this week after sustaining fractured rib cartilage within the remaining minutes of L.A.’s 27-24 loss to the Chiefs final Thursday.
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Herbert was a restricted participant in apply on Wednesday, going via warm-ups and performing some handoffs to working backs. On Thursday, he threw passes for the primary time this week.
Chargers coach Brandon Staley mentioned Herbert is day-to-day and that Herbert and the medical staff will lead the method on whether or not he performs Sunday towards the Jacksonville Jaguars. Staley mentioned the QB carried out some mild throwing and rotational work on Tuesday and that he is feeling extra snug.
“It’s going to begin with him,” Staley mentioned. “After which clearly, him feeling good about what the medical staff seems like is finest. Him weighing the choices, after which us making a superb choice. Once more, it is day-to-day with him. However we’ll preserve speaking because the week goes on.”
Staley additionally addressed the reported considerations relating to the Chargers’ medical workers.
Herbert acquired his first NFL begin two years in the past in a Week 2 recreation towards the Chiefs as a result of quarterback Tyrod Taylor suffered a punctured lung when a staff physician tried to manage a pain-killing injection for rib discomfort. Taylor was transported to the hospital throughout the recreation.
Though he didn’t file a grievance via the NFL Gamers Affiliation, Taylor has sued staff physician David Gazzaniga for medical malpractice. Filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courtroom in Might 2021, the lawsuit seeks no less than $5 million in damages, with a trial scheduled to begin subsequent June.
Gazzaniga stays a part of the Chargers’ medical workers.
“We’ve got full alignment with Justin, his household, his brokers and the medical professionals,” Staley mentioned. “That is what we’ll attempt to do, have alignment that approach and simply belief the method. And hopefully get him nicely quickly.”
Herbert has made 34 straight regular-season begins, seventh amongst energetic starters. Nonetheless, Herbert’s rib subject is the primary vital harm of his younger NFL profession. He has a protracted option to go to succeed in the iron-man milestone of former franchise QB Philip Rivers.
The North Carolina State product made 240 consecutive begins in 16 seasons with the Bolts, second amongst quarterbacks all time to Brett Favre’s 297 straight begins. Not surprisingly, Rivers usually performed via ache, together with taking part in with a torn ACL within the 2007 AFC Championship Recreation towards the New England Patriots and with painful rib harm in 2014.
Like his former teammate Rivers, Ekeler believes Herbert confirmed toughness in taking part in via the harm final week towards the Chiefs.
“I felt so unhealthy for him,” Ekeler mentioned. “I see the ache that he is in. He cannot even take into consideration getting hit on that 1-yard run so he simply type of throws it away. And it wasn’t even like a full throw. He simply type of lifted his arm as a result of opening up that aspect was clearly giving him some ache.
“So, kudos to him for driving us down there. He was clearly completely different. Within the huddle, you might inform he was in some ache calling the performs.”
If Herbert cannot go, the Chargers will flip to veteran backup Chase Daniel. The 35-year-old Missouri product is 2-3 as a starter in his profession and has performed in Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s system for 3 seasons.
“Chase is a vet,” Ekeler mentioned. “He is aware of the offense as a lot as Justin does. He is been round Lombardi for a very long time, so if Chase is on the market, I am nonetheless comfortable. Thumbs up, and we’ll get it executed with Chase, as nicely.”
And if Herbert does play, Ekeler understands will probably be as much as his teammates to guard the franchise quarterback.
“We’re making an attempt to maintain this man up,” Ekeler mentioned. “He is our lead man. He is the man that is going to be calling performs, getting us into checks and clearly doing what he does after that. So, we’re clearly making an attempt to guard him by any means. However soccer is a violent recreation. The protection will get paid, too.”
Added Herbert’s blindside protector Rashawn Slater: “Our No. 1 job is to maintain him clear, so nothing actually modifications so far as that goes. Whether or not it is him or Chase, we’ll be prepared.”
Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for greater than a decade, protecting the Los Angeles Rams for Sports activities Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma Information Tribune. Comply with him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.
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