Via Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports NFC West Writer
COSTA MESA, California – Austin Ekeler pointed to a rib protruding from his six pack abs, the lingering aftermath of a rib fracture four years ago.
The Charger‘running back continues to be injured in an opening loss for Chief of Kansas City in his second year in the league. He competed the following week, having a pain-relieving injection and wearing a thicker rib-cushion protector.
And he performed well. Ekeler played 23 snaps and finished with 98 script yards in a 31-20 on-road win against Buffalo Bills.
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“We’ve all been there before, especially those who’ve been in the league,” Ekeler said.
“I’ve also had a rib fracture before. When you start the match and it’s game day decision: Can you walk? Are you safe for the most part physically? And then Can you stand what could happen, and can we get you to a position where you can actually perform? day. “
Ekeler’s teammate, the Chargers franchise midfielder Justin Herbertwill go through a similar process this week after a rib cartilage injury fractured in the final minutes of LA’s 27-24 loss to the Chiefs last Thursday.
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Herbert was part of a limited practice Wednesday, going through warm-ups and doing some back-to-back serves. On Thursday, he threw the pass for the first time this week.
Chargers coach Brandon Staley said Herbert is daily and Herbert and the medical team will lead the process on whether he will compete on Sunday with Jacksonville Jaguars. Staley said QB did some light throwing and turning on Tuesday and that he feels more comfortable.
“It’s going to start with him,” Staley said. “And obviously, he feels good about what the medical team feels is best. He weighs the options and then we make the right decision. Again, that’s it. days with him. But we will continue to communicate as the week goes on.”
Staley also addressed reported concerns regarding Chargers medical personnel.
Herbert got his first NFL game two years ago in a Week 2 game against the captain for quarterback Tyrod Taylor had a punctured lung when a team doctor tried to inject pain medication because of discomfort in his ribs. Taylor was taken to the hospital during the match.
While not filing a complaint through the NFL Players Association, Taylor sued team doctor David Gazzaniga for medical malpractice. Filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court in May 2021, the case seeks damages of at least $5 million, with trial scheduled to begin next June.
Gazzaniga remains on the Chargers medical staff.
“We have a full connection with Justin, his family, his agents and medical professionals,” Staley said. “That’s what we’re going to try and do, have that alignment that way and just trust the process. And hopefully he’ll get well soon.”
Herbert had 34 consecutive regular-season starts, ranking seventh among positive starts. However, Herbert’s rib problem was the first major injury of his young NFL career. He has a long way to go to reach former QB Philip Rivers’ iron man milestone.
The State of North Carolina product made 240 consecutive starts in 16 seasons with the Bolts, second among all-time key midfielders up to Brett Favre’s 297 consecutive starts. It’s no surprise that Rivers often had to play in pain, including playing with a torn ACL in the 2007 AFC Championship Match against New England Patriots and with a painful rib injury in 2014.
Like his former teammate Rivers, Ekeler believes Herbert showed his toughness in the game thanks to an injury in the game against the Chiefs last week.
“I feel so bad for him,” Ekeler said. “I saw the pain he was in. He couldn’t even think about getting hit in that 1-yard run so he just threw it. And it didn’t even look like a full throw. He only raised his arm because opening that side was obviously causing him some pain.
“So kudos to him for getting us down there. He’s clearly different. In group chat you can tell he’s in pain when calling plays.”
If Herbert can’t go, the Charger goes into veteran backup mode Chase Daniel. 35 years old Missouri product was 2-3 at the start of his career and played in the system of Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi for three seasons.
“Chase is a veterinarian,” Ekeler said. “He knows the offense as much as Justin. He’s been around Lombardi for a long time, so if Chase is out there, I’d still be happy. Agree and we’ll work things out with Chase. .”
And if Herbert does play, Ekeler understands it will be up to his teammates to protect the franchise’s quartet.
“We’re trying to keep this guy,” Ekeler said. “He’s our lead. He’s the one who’s going to call plays, put us in the test, and obviously do what he does after that. So we’re obviously trying. defend him by all means. But football is a violent game. Defenders get paid too.”
Added Herbert curtain guard Rashawn Slater: “Our #1 job is to keep him clean, so nothing really changes in the near term. Whether it’s him or Chase, we’ll be ready.”
Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for over a decade, including the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN, and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.
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