Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver and 2017 first-round pick Mike Williams will likely open the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
Williams, who reportedly suffered a herniated disk in his lower back during rookie minicamp, has missed most of the team’s other offseason work thus far. He has since received two epidural shots, and resumed running early this week.
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After initial reports that Williams might need season-ending back surgery, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that back surgery was being considered about three or four weeks ago, but is no longer on the table. Williams himself adamantly denied that surgery was ever an option.
“Nah, I’m good,” he said at Alshon Jeffery’s youth camp this past Saturday. “Everything good, the back situation, that was some false information being released. I don’t know who released it but everything is good.”
This is, of course, good news for Williams. Regardless of draft position, it’s never ideal for rookies to miss time with the team. There’s no established timetable for his return, but back injuries are fickle things. If he can avoid having a setback that will require surgery, he has a chance to not lose his rookie season a la recent first-round receivers Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and Josh Doctson.
For the Chargers, while this news is obviously good for them, it’s a situation they would’ve been equipped to handle. Suffering multiple injuries in their last two seasons in San Diego, allowed them to develop backup receivers in game situations with Philip Rivers. They also have a bevy of talent at the position. Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Dontrelle Inman and Travis Benjamin make up one of the deepest receiver depth charts in the league. Williams possibly would’ve opened camp behind all of them.
Not to say that the Chargers don’t need any production from their first-round pick this season, but they can afford a brief waiting period before he starts working. For the sake of Philip Rivers, a receiving core with a terrible recent injury history, and a team/front office/new city that would all benefit from winning now, let’s hope that’s all this turns out to be.