Chargers Fans…the plot has thickened. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, head coach Anthony Lynn has acknowledged that first-round draft selection Mike Williams could be sidelined for the entire 2017 season, with a back injury.
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Back on June 6, the Chargers reported that Williams had suffered a ‘mild herniated disc.’ The prognosis was that he would miss mandatory mini-camp, but that he would most-likely be ready for the start of training camp on July 30. The news seemed to be a mere footnote until July 19, when Schefter (along with Rap Sheet’s Ian Rapoport) reported that Williams’ injury may have been more serious than originally thought. In fact, surgery was looking like a like option, and the injury might require Williams to miss the entire 2017 season. For a team that had already missed its marquee receiver, Keenan Allen, in 2016, the Chargers were looking like they would again have to deal with a significant loss to quarterback Philip Rivers’ arsenal of weapons.
Then came the silver lining for which the Chargers and their fans had hoped. NFL Network’s Mike Garofolo reported that Williams would not require surgery. However, he would begin Chargers training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list (PUP). Starting training camp on the PUP list is often a precautionary move. Williams, himself, also downplayed the injury and declared that he was ‘good’ (as relating to his health.). Therefore, optimism was once again high, as training camp approached.
However, the rub started to reappear on Saturday, when the Chargers issued their official placement of Williams on the preseason PUP list. Within this statement, the team indicated that Williams will be focused on conditioning, and would most-likely miss all team activities during training camp. While this could just be precautionary, it is definitely a story on which Chargers Fans should keep a sharp eye. This could result in Los Angeles transitioning the rookie, and former Clemson star wideout, to the regular season PUP list, prior to Week 1. If that does occur, Williams would then be forced to miss the first six weeks of the season, at the very least. In the event that he still hasn’t recovered once that period expires, a move to season-ending injured reserve would become a more distinct possibility.
Until late yesterday, this seemed like an unlikely and worst-case scenario. However, Coach Lynn’s statements from late Sunday indicate that the Chargers feel that this is possible, even if unlikely.
Next Man Up??
If the Chargers can take solace in one thing, it’s that they are deep at the receiver position. Keenan Allen has returned healthy. Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin and Dontrell Inman are all coming off of career years. The Chargers also boast two potent tight ends, Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry, and a capable pass-catching back in Melvin Gordon.
Speaking on NFL Network’s Inside Training Camp Live on Sunday, these sentiments were echoed by team analyst, and Chargers special assistant to the owner, LaDanian Tomlinson. In an interview with NFL network’s Alex Flanagan, Tomlinson said:
“We all were hoping that he would get over that back issue and kinda be able to avoid going under the knife — and we still don’t know yet. I think the best thing for Mike is to rest and rehab and hopefully in two or three weeks he can get back on the field. The good thing is, we have a deep receiving corps, guys who have done it at a high level. Even when Keenan Allen was hurt last year we had guys step up. So this is a deep group. We’ll miss Mike for however long he’s out, but I think these guys that we have can get it done.”
As training camp progresses towards full-swing, Chargers fans continue to ride a familiar roller-coaster. The team keeps it fingers crossed as Williams continues to work through this injury. Hopefully, he will be ready for action this season. If not, the Chargers would find themselves in familiar territory. That experience may be just what they need to help them contend in what will be a tough division in 2017.
– Mike D’Abate is the Managing Editor for cover32/Chargers and covers the Los Angeles Chargers for cover32.