- Eric D. Williams, ESPN Staff Writer
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SAN DIEGO -- Back-to-back weeks in the postseason, San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews tried to play through the pain of a severe ankle sprain that forced him to miss most of the practice week.
Mathews never made it past a few plays in the second half of either contest. But the fact that he had the mental mindset and physical strength to play through the nagging injury shows how far Mathews has come in his fourth NFL season.
San Diego Chargers
Mathews finished with a career-high 1,255 rushing yards during the regular season, and was voted by his teammates as San Diego's offensive player of the year.
Mathews sustained the injury in the second half of San Diego's game against Oakland on Dec. 22.
“It was tough because I wanted to be out there every play, just to help them,” Mathews told reporters on Monday. “Just to see them fight back, and just fight, fight and fight -- and to be able to come back in the fourth quarter -- and to just be able to make a run for the win is incredible. For me, it's just hard to watch that.
“But I'm just going to keep getting better. I have a plan. And the plan is to just keep doing what I'm doing, and to better myself so we can take it farther.”
Mathews said daily work with Chargers strength and conditioning coach Kent Johnson helped him make it through a full, 16-game season for the first time in his pro career.
“I'm just going to train and get better,” Mathews said. “There's a lot of stuff I have to work on. The strength and conditioning coaches, they got me right that last offseason, and it can only go up from here. And so that's what I plan to do.”
Te'o and Gilchrist had to leave the game because of the injury. Butler finished the game; his concussion was not diagnosed until after the contest.
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