AFC West: Scott Mruczkowski
Standout guard Kris Dielman was put on the injured reserve last week with a concussion; Mruczkowski was playing for Dielman. The Chargers are also playing without starting offensive linemen Marcus McNeill and Louis Vasquez — and Vasquez's backup, Tyronne Green, is dealing with an injury, too.
San Diego signed three offensive linemen last week. It could now sign another one to replace Mruczkowski.
Receiver Malcom Floyd (hip) and linebacker Shaun Phillips (foot) remained out of practice. They’ve both missed several weeks. Running back Ryan Mathews (knee) was limited in practice Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Union-Tribune adds, quarterback Philip Rivers convened a short players-only talk on the field after Wednesday's practice.
Guard Louis Vasquez has left the game with an injury. He joins guard Kris Dielman (who is missing his third game with a concussion) and left tackle Marcus McNeill on the San Diego sideline. McNeill suffered a stinger early in Thursday's game against Oakland and he is doubtful to return.
There is no word on the extent of Vasquez's injury, but it looked like an ankle issue. Backup center Scott Mruczkowski is playing for Vasquez.
The Raiders have been harassing San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers all night.
Yet the Chargers got hot after Vasquez’s injury and just cut Oakland’s lead to 17-10 on a beautiful pass play from Rivers to rookie Vincent Brown.
UPDATE: The Chargers announced Vasquez is doubtful to return with an ankle injury.
UPDATE: The Chargers announced linebacker Takeo Spikes is out with a concussion.
According to the magazine’s rankings, each AFC West team lost some value from a year ago. Denver is ranked No. 10 n the NFL on the value list, Kansas City is ranked No. 20, San Diego is ranked No. 24 and Oakland is ranked No. 31, only ahead of struggling Jacksonville, which has been rumored to be interesting in leaving the city at some point.
Much of the value is based in stadium worth and the Raiders’ stadium has been less than desirable for years. The Raiders are interested in a new stadium but don’t have anything concrete in the works.
- The Raiders are giving third-round pick Jared Veldheer a chance to start at center against San Francisco on Saturday night. Veldheer is a tackle, but he is starting over Chris Morris with Samson Satele injured. Veldheer could steal the starting job. The Raiders’ line has been weak and it is looking for a spark. Perhaps Veldheer will be the answer at center.
- The Denver Post is reporting that Broncos rookie receiver Demaryius Thomas’ re-aggravation of a pre-draft foot injury is not overly serious. Still, Thomas, who has been hampered by the injury often in his short NFL career, may not be ready to play in the season opener Sept. 12 at Jacksonville.
Williams’ release isn’t totally shocking. He was due a roster bonus Friday and is coming off a triceps surgery that kept him out of all but one game last season. Williams will be 34 next month and has been wearing down in recent seasons.
Williams’ situation is not unlike the recent release of running back LaDainian Tomlinson. Williams was a fan favorite and had a great career in San Diego, but he could no longer be counted on. Williams, 6-foot-3, 348 pounds, was a superstar in his prime. He anchored the San Diego defense and clogged the interior of the defensive line.
San Diego, though, will have to act quickly to replace Williams. San Diego missed Williams’ run-stuffing ability all season. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Chargers look at nose tackle with the No. 28 overall pick in the draft. Alabama’s Terrence Cody could be targeted as a replacement for Williams.
San Diego announced free agent special teams ace Kassim Osgood “definitely” will not be returning. Osgood wants a chance to play receiver and he should get that chance in free agency. San Diego was never interested in letting Osgood play on offense.
It also released backup running back Michael Bennett. Even though San Diego put the high tender on change-of-pace back Darren Sproles, still expect it to try to pick up at least two running backs this offseason.
San Diego agreed to a two-year deal with defensive tackle Antonio Garay. He was scheduled to be a restricted free agent.
The Chargers also announced that several players have had or will soon have surgeries to address 2009 health issues. They said every player will be ready for training camp in late July. Here is the team’s list of players who needed surgery:
Surgery update Injury Rehab Time (from date of surgery)
LB Kevin Burnett Neck 3-5 months
DE Luis Castillo Shoulder complete
DE Jacques Cesaire Elbow, Knee complete
C Nick Hardwick Shoulder complete
DE Vaughn Martin Ankle 12 weeks
G Scott Mruczkowski Elbow 2-4 weeks
WR Legedu Naanee Foot 12 weeks
P Mike Scifres Bilateral hernia 6-12 weeks
S C.J. Spillman Shoulder 3-4 months
G Louis Vasquez Knee 6-8 weeks
The team added veteran center Eric Ghiaciuc. He has started 42 games in the NFL. He was cut by Kansas City in training camp.
The team is hopeful standout center Nick Hardwick can play, starting Friday at Tennessee. Hardwick has been out since Week 1 with an ankle injury. Hardwick has been trouble getting back after suffering a setback.
Now, with Mruczkowski – was performed very well as Hardwick’s replacement -- out, the need for Hardwick to return has intensified. Hardwick practiced fully Tuesday for the Chargers, who are playing on a short week.
Linebacker Shawne Merriman (foot) and defensive end Jacques Cesaire (elbow) did not practice Tuesday for San Diego.
The Chargers have had several hard-fought battles with the Titans, including in 2007, when the team felt like standout linebacker Shawne Merriman was the subject of a questionable hit. Merriman hurt his knee on the play.
Phillips didn’t call out the Titans on Monday, but he indicated the Chargers will be ready.
“They definitely took a cheap shot on Merriman,” Phillips said in a transcript supplied by the team. “They're a physical team, though -- they thought they could punk us, and we obviously aren't going to get punked. We're going to do the same thing. They're a physical football team, and we like to believe we're a physical football team, so it's going to be one of those ones where we are going to punch them in the mouth and they're going to try to punch us back, and that's just how it's going to be. I personally know that Merriman definitely has to be a little heated because I believe that's when he originally hurt his knee. He hurt his knee in that game. So I'm pretty sure that he has some butterflies, and obviously that’s my brother so we're going to support him and we'll be behind him as well. So I already know going into it that it's one of those weeks that you prepare for a dogfight, because of the type of guys they have over there. They got some competitive guys. Big, strong, physical guys that get a little nasty and we'd like to think that we're that way too, so we're looking forward to it.”
- San Diego coach Norv Turner said center Scott Mruczkowski has a strained ankle, at the minimum. The team is hopeful that Nick Hardwick will be able to play Friday. He has been out since Week 1 with ankle. If not, backup offensive linemen Dennis Norman (he finished the game at center Sunday) and Tyronne Green could be in the mix.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson
The news keeps getting worse for the San Diego Chargers.
The team announced Wednesday that center Nick Hardwick will undergo ankle surgery Wednesday and he will be out for the next eight weeks.
Hardwick is one of the best centers in the NFL and he is the anchor to San Diego’s offensive line. He was hurt against Oakland in the season opener and he departed the field on a cart. After the game, San Diego coach Norv Turner indicated that he didn’t think Hardwick’s injury was serious. Hardwick wasn’t ruled out of the Chargers’ game against Baltimore last week until two days before the game.
This news stings. The Chargers are still reeling from the news Saturday that standout defensive tackle Jamal Williams will be out for the season with a triceps injury.
Losing two major cogs to the interior lines in a matter five days is major for the Chargers, who are 1-1 entering Sunday’s home game against Miami.
Hardwick is being replaced by Scott Mruczkowski. He has done a nice job playing in place of Hardwick, but Hardwick will be missed.
The Chargers are certainly not the same team that started the season at Oakland nine days ago. They aren’t as strong. But they still have key pieces that can make this a special team. But the devastating injuries must stop now or this team will just have too much to overcome.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson
SAN DIEGO -- It is 80 degrees here as we await kickoff between the Ravens and Chargers.
- San Diego right guard Louis Vasquez is inactive with a knee injury. Backup tackle Brandyn Dombrowski is making his first start in Vasquez’s place.
- The Chargers are without 40 percent of their offensive line against Baltimore. Standout center Nick Hardwick is out with an ankle injury. Scott Mruczkowski is playing for Hardwick.
- Darren Sproles will start in place of LaDainian Tomlinson at tailback. Tomlinson was ruled out Friday with an ankle injury.
- Ogemdi Nwagbuo will start at nose tackle for Jamal Williams, who was put on the injured reserve Saturday with a triceps injury.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson
The Chargers have made a move to help their hurting offensive line by signing veteran Dennis Norman. The nine-year veteran was recently cut by Jacksonville. He can play all three positions on the line.
The Chargers have a need because standout center Nick Hardwick (ankle) and guard Louis Vasquez (knee) left Monday night’s game in Oakland in the third quarter. Both players missed Wednesday’s practice. The San Diego Union Tribune is reporting Hardwick is expected to miss at least Sunday’s game against Baltimore. Vasquez, according to the newspaper, is questionable to face the Ravens.
Norman will likely be active to face the Ravens.
Scott Mruczkowski replaced Vasquez and then Hardwick. Tackle Brandyn Dombrowski replaced Vasquez when Hardwick was hurt. Both backups will likely start if Hardwick and Vasquez don’t play against the Ravens.
|Cary Edmondson/US Presswire|
|Philip Rivers led the Chargers on a pair of late scoring drives to secure the victory.|
Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Who knew a Chargers-Raiders game would come down to a cat-and-mouse game with less than 30 seconds to go?
The Chargers may have beaten the Raiders for the 12th straight time, but this one was far from easy.
“Yeah, just because we’ve beaten them a lot lately people think it would be easy,” San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers said. “It wasn’t easy.”
No, San Diego needed some final-second gamesmanship to pull off its 24-20 season-opening victory over the suddenly stout and game Oakland Raiders.
The final drama in this brilliant game was created by Oakland’s husky coach, Tom Cable. With the Chargers lined up with four receivers, Cable rumbled onto the field to call a timeout with 21 seconds to go.
The timeout gave the Chargers a chance to adjust.
They were indeed going to throw the ball on second-and-goal from the 5-yard line, trailing 20-17. But Cable made San Diego coach Norv Turner go to the playbook again.
Turner introduced a new play the Chargers just started to practice late last week.
“I really liked it [in practice],” Rivers said late Monday night.
Now, Rivers loves it.
The play was a draw-type handoff to shifty tailback Darren Sproles. Sproles skirted right up the middle and into the end zone for an easy score with 18 seconds to go.
Maybe that timeout shouldn’t have been called, after all.
“That timeout helped,” Rivers said.
Oakland star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said the Raiders were expecting San Diego to pass both before the timeout (right call) and after the timeout (wrong call).
“Norv is good at those little details things,” Asomugha said. “It was an incredible finish.”
San Diego gained 166 of its 317 total offensive yards on its final two drives, and the Chargers did it without starting offensive linemen Nick Hardwick and Louis Vasquez.
Here are some observations:
The Raiders are better: The mere fact that San Diego had to fight back with touchdowns in its final two drives shows that the Raiders are improved.
The entire San Diego locker room was praising Oakland for becoming a better team. Oakland set an NFL record for six straight seasons with 11 losses or more from 2003-08. That streak may be in jeopardy if the Raiders play as balanced as they did Monday night.
“That team is much improved,” San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman said. “They’ve been adding top draft picks the past several years and it’s really paying off.”
Added Rivers: “They look like they are much better.”
Despite the pain of the loss, Cable was happy with the progress and you get the feeling that the Raiders, who play at Kansas City on Sunday, feel like they are onto something.
“We’re going to be OK,” Asomugha said.
The Chargers gutted out this win: When Hardwick and Vasquez went out in the third quarter, the Chargers looked lost.
“It wasn’t going well,” Rivers said.
But with the young Scott Mruczkowski and Brandyn Dombrowski playing, the Chargers got better in the fourth quarter. San Diego erupted in the fourth quarter with 166 yards.
“We just stuck with it and it came together,” Rivers said.
Added Dombrowski: "We just gave everything we had to get this win."
The Chargers are hopeful both the injuries to Hardwick, the anchor of the unit, and Vasquez won't be long-term issues.
The call: Raiders fans are going to be upset for a long time as a result of the call that took a touchdown away from rookie receiver Louis Murphy late in the first half. The Raiders had to settle for a field goal.
So, they lost four points on the call. And they lost the game by four points. Here is the official explanation from Carl Cheffers:
“Let me just grab the [rule] book here, and I’m going to read you what the book says. We had a situation where the receiver caught the pass in the air and as he is coming down to the ground, he is actually going to the ground. That’s a defined term in our rule book, a player, a receiver who is going to the ground. The rule book says, if a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass, with or without contact by opponent -- so that can be on his own. In this case, he got hit by an opponent -- he must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or in the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete. That wasn’t the case. What we ruled, what we saw in replay, was that he was going to the ground, as he came down the ball came loose, he lost control of the ball, the ball skidded along the ground, he eventually completely lost control of the ball. So, by rule, by what we saw in review, it’s an incomplete pass.”
Seymour is going to help the Raiders: New Oakland defensive end Richard Seymour played very well in his Raiders debut. He helped the entire defense against the run and the pass. San Diego had only 77 yards rushing. Oakland was 31st in the NFL against the run last year.
Seymour had six tackles and two sacks.
“He gives them a spark,” Rivers said.
Russell, Murphy could be a nice team: The Raiders thought they won the game on a 57-yard touchdown pass from JaMarcus Russell to Louis Murphy on fourth-and-14 with 2:34 to go.
Murphy looks great. In fact, the fourth-round pick from Florida looks much better than first-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey, who had no catches and two drops.
Russell is still a work in progress. He completed just 12 of 30 passes.
One game at a time: Winning in the final seconds is much better than losing in the final seconds. San Diego opened the 2008 season by losing at home to Carolina. It started a 4-8 skid for the Chargers.
This training camp, San Diego vowed to take it one game at a time.
“That’s what we did tonight,” Merriman said. “We just hung in there and worried about this game.”
Even though it took all game, the Chargers' patience paid off.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
SAN DIEGO -- Let's wrap up another wild weekend in the AFC West:
The one constant in this craziness is how bad San Diego has been. The Chargers have lost five of their last six games. They are one of the few consistent teams in the NFL.
Look at Denver. It lost by three touchdowns at home last week to Oakland. Then the Broncos bounced back and beat the Jets this week. The Jets entered the game as one of the hottest teams in the league.
Look at the Raiders. They followed up their big win over Denver with a home loss to Kansas City. It's difficult to figure these teams out.
But the Chargers have been easy to figure. They just can't seem to win these days.
Meanwhile, don't be surprised at all if the Chargers' brass reconsiders the public announcement that Norv Turner will be back next season if the Chargers lose a couple of more games this season. The fans in San Diego are livid. There will be an uprising if Turner isn't fired if the Chargers continue to slide.
In Oakland. interim coach Tom Cable is being questioned for using a fake field goal featuring kicker Sebastian Janikowski. The play was butchered from the start and resulted in a Kansas City touchdown. Cable has gumption, but the play was not high percentage. It is plays like that that makes many observers believe he will not be back next season.
Wonder how many Raiders fans will be in San Diego on Thursday night? The Chargers have not sold out the game yet and fans were very restless Sunday in the loss to Atlanta. I wouldn't expect Chargers fans to be lining up for this one. Oakland fans always travel well to San Diego so there could be plenty of silver and black in stands.
Chargers tight end Antonio Gates pointed out how much the team missed left guard Kris Dielman on Sunday. He had the flu. Scott Mruczkowski started for Dielman. Gates didn't criticize Mruczkowski, but he said that Dielman is a major part of the offense and it is difficult for a player who doesn't get many repetitions in practice to step in. It was clear that San Diego's run offense wasn't working. LaDainian Tomlinson had 24 yards on 14 carries. It was his second-lowest yardage total of his career.
Former Chiefs defensive end Jared Allen has 11 sacks for the Vikings. The Chiefs, as a team, have six.
Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez continues to stay hot. He had eight catches for 110 yards in the Chiefs win at Oakland on Sunday. At 32, he is having another all-pro type season.
Eddie Royal is Denver's all-time rookie leader with five receiving touchdowns. And he has four games to add to the total.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
SAN DIEGO -- Here are some pre-game news and notes prior to the Falcons-Chargers game:
It is 68 degrees and sunny in San Diego.
San Diego defensive lineman Luis Castillo is expected back in the starting lineup. He missed last week's game with a groin injury.
Former San Diego running back Michael Turner, who signed with Atlanta as a free agent in the offseason, was cheered by San Diego fans in pre-game warm-ups.