The Los Angeles Chargers offensive line has had a rough week, to put it mildly. After a dismal performance in Saturday’s 13-7 loss to the New Orleans Saints, they learned that reserve tackle, Tyreek Burwell, broke his hand during the game. This injury will, likely, sideline him in the short-term. The Bolts O-Line surely did not need any further bad news. New additions Russell Okung and starting right tackle Joe Barksdale have been dealing with minor ankle and foot injuries. In addition, the team is already without second-round pick Forrest Lamp, who was competing to start at right guard. Lamp suffered a torn ACL in the first week of training camp, and will miss the entire 2017 season.
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Perhaps the most disappointing hit of all, however, came on Tuesday when news broke that center Max Tuerk would be suspended for four games, without pay, for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances. Consequently, the Chargers will be without his services until Oct. 2, one day after their Week 4 game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Tuerk had been touted as a future anchor of the offensive line. The former all-conference center for USC developed an injury history after tearing a knee ligament in October 2015. As a result, he sat out the rest of his senior season. The Chargers drafted Tuerk at No. 66 overall, but he remained inactive for any of their 16 regular-season games. Despite unquestioned future promise, he has yet to make his regular season debut for the Bolts.
While his suspension is unlikely to break the Chargers season, it is a hit to the depth of an offensive line that has its share of questions. Hoping to improve on a sub-par 2016 season, the team drafted three offensive lineman, and signed Okung to bring in some veteran leadership. This news is definitely disappointing to both parties. However, it is encouraging that both Tuerk and the Chargers seem to be on the same page, moving forward.
Tuerk offered the following statement:
“This offseason, I made the mistake of taking over-the-counter supplements. In doing so, I opened myself up to the possibility of consuming a tainted supplement — something that ultimately led to a positive test for a banned substance. I accept responsibility for my actions and understand the NFL’s policy is very clear on this matter. This is a very hard way to learn a lesson, and I will never make this mistake again.”
In response, the Chargers released this statement:
“We respect and support the League’s decision on this matter. While disappointed, we appreciate that Max has accepted responsibility and are confident that he understands what is expected from him moving forward.”
Tuerk is eligible to participate in practice and games throughout the rest of the preseason. He will begin the regular season on the reserve/suspended list. It should be noted that until October 2, he will not count toward the Chargers’ active roster limit of 53.
With Tuerk starting the season on the sidelines, undrafted second-year pro Spencer Pulley will likely be the starting center on opening day. Per the Orange County Register, he may rotate between guard and center with rookie Dan Feeney. It has also been rumored that the Bolts may have interest in former New York Jets’ all-pro, and current free-agent, Nick Mangold. Regardless of how they choose to fill the roster slot, it’s obvious that the Charges are in need of improvement on the offensive line. They have a valuable, franchise quarterback to protect in Philip Rivers. Without the proper pieces in place, it could be another long year in Carson.
– Mike D’Abate is the Managing Editor for cover32/Chargers and covers the Los Angeles Chargers.