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San Diego Chargers starting running back Ryan Mathews is ahead of schedule after suffering a broken clavicle on his first carry in the preseason, but it seems a lock that Mathews will miss at least San Diego’s season opener.
Mathews been cleared to do upper body exercises in addition to the lower body work he has been doing all along. When he was injured, the team said his recovery timetable was about 4-6 weeks, but most experts believed it would be closer to the six weeks.
However, Mathews has been steadfast in his optimism. He has said all along he expects to play at Oakland on Sept. 10 on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.”
The Chargers, thin in the backfield after losing Darren Sproles and Mike Tolbert to free agency in back-to-back seasons, have struggled in the running game since Mathews was injured. Through three preseason games, no Charger has more than 50 yards rushing, and as a team, the Chargers are 31st in rushing yards per game (66.3) and dead last in rushing yards per play (2.4). Outside of Mathews, Curtis Brinkley leads all Chargers running backs with 3.1 yards per carry. Ronnie Brown and Le’Ron McClain are tied for second at 3.0.
The Chargers have been notoriously slow starters under Norv Turner, but that won’t push them to rush Mathews back before he’s fully ready. Even without Mathews, they can get beat the Raiders and in Week 2 will face a Tennessee Titans team that will have quarterback Jake Locker making his first NFL start.
Mathews said he wasn’t told anything about the pace of his recovery as it relates to being back for Week 1. His goal stares straight into the headwind of the team’s expectation, which is that he’ll miss at least a game or two.
“But I feel I’ll be ready,” Mathews said. “I’ve been doing everything right. Eating right. Doing what I can. I think I’ll be straight.”
Should they be without Mathews for the season opener, Turner is confident his stable of runners can handle the extra work load for the time being.
“Every guy we have back there brings a different strength to the table,” he said shortly after the injury occurred. “Ronnie Brown is an experienced player who is very multitalented. He does a lot of things well. Jackie Battle is a very physical inside runner. We got a look at Curtis Brinkley and I’m excited about him. He’s done well in games for us…Plus there’s Le’Ron McClain. He’s our fullback, and he’s a physical presence. There are some things we like with him in the running game, and we are going to give him the chance to get some work in there.”
The Chargers are 1-point WagerWeb.com road favorites for the opener in Oakland.