Want another reason why the rest of the AFC West should worry about the San Diego Chargers, who have won three straight games and appear to be embarking on another late-season playoff run?
The return of Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson. As expected, the Chargers officially activated Jackson to the roster Tuesday as the Chargers prepare for a pivotal game at Indianapolis on Sunday night. He has been on the roster-exemption list for the past three games after ending his holdout.
There has been speculation that San Diego would be reluctant to play Jackson because of hard feelings over his holdout and the fact that he will likely walk as a free agent after the season. Also, there has been speculation that Jackson may not be motivated to play at a high level because of his own hard feelings.
My expectations? San Diego, which has been depleted by injuries, will use Jackson often and he will be a professional and play with his usual strong work ethic. The word is Jackson has looked very good in recent practices. Tuesday, San Diego coach Norv Turner told reporters he expects Jackson to be a solid contributor.
Jackson’s pending return was not lost on his teammates Monday night after San Diego evened its record at 5-5 with a 35-14 win over Denver.
“We get Vincent back this week,” safety Eric Weddle said without prompting. “That’s only going to make us better.”
There’s no reason to think Jackson won’t start right away. His replacement as the No. 1 receiver, Malcom Floyd, aggravated a hamstring injury Monday night and could miss more time. No. 2 receiver Legedu Naanee still is being hampered by a hamstring injury that kept him out of several games and No. 4 receiver Patrick Crayton, who has been starting in Naanee’s place, has a wrist injury that could cost him a significant amount of time. Buster Davis, the team’s No. 3 receiver, was put on the injured reserve last month.
Tight end Antonio Gates has missed two games with a foot injury and there’s no guarantee he will return against the Colts, although the team is hopeful. The team is also hopeful rookie tailback Ryan Mathews will return from an ankle injury at Indianapolis, although expect backup Mike Tolbert to play significantly. He had 11 rushing yards against Denver.
The Chargers have survived the onslaught of injuries because of the special play of quarterback Philip Rivers. He has to be thrilled about the notion of getting Jackson back. Rivers and Jackson have been one of the NFL’s best long-play combinations. Rivers’ stance during Jackson’s holdout was always this: “I wish Vincent was here. We’d be a better team with him.” Now, the surging Chargers will get Rivers’ wish.