Mathews out; rookies impress in game of firsts

Mathews out; rookies impress in game of firsts
Thursday's game was historical with the first female ref in NFL history, Shannon Eastin, serving as line ref. Photo by Bill Reilly

SAN DIEGO — Thursday’s Chargers preseason game against the Green Bay Packers was a game of firsts. 

It was the first time in NFL history that a woman, Shannon Eastin, refereed a game; it was the first time in the very young season a Chargers game was threatened with a TV blackout and it was the first time the Chargers beat the Packers in San Diego in their 10-game regular season history.

But it wasn’t the first time running back Ryan Mathews left a game with an injury.

Early reports said the injury was to his shoulder.

After the game a Chargers spokesperson confirmed Mathews suffered a broken clavicle and would undergo surgery Friday.

At the Friday press conference, head coach Norv Turner said Mathews was in surgery and was expected to be back playing in 4 weeks, “if we’re fortunate,” but added it could “go to 6 weeks.”

Mathews was hit on his first carry of the game, a 5-yard run, and on the subsequent fall tried to use his arm to brace himself and his arm got twisted underneath him.

“That play could’ve happened on his 360th carry or it can happen on your first carry,” Turner said.

Based on free agent acquisitions during the offseason, including veteran running back Ronnie Brown, Turner said he likes where they are in terms of personnel to fill the spot while Mathews recuperates.

But Turner said he was excited leaving the stadium Thursday based on the team’s performance. “The things we went about trying to accomplish in the offseason, and we had a very specific plan for what we wanted to accomplish from a talent standpoint and from a roster standpoint, I believe we’ve accomplished.”

Last night’s game, he said, was about watching those young guys “fly around.”

Those young guys included first-found draft pick Melvin Ingram and second-round draft pick Kendall Reyes, especially.

Ingram got the start in place of veteran Jarret Johnson, who came to the team as a free agent after spending 10 years with the Baltimore Ravens.

“You talk about two rookies, Ingram and Reyes, but then Corey Liuget right there with them,” Turner said. “Our defensive line was so active and so fast,” he added. “We just, defensively up front, are so much more active and so much more athletic, that that’s exciting to me.”

Turner was pleased on the performance of the defense and on the efforts of new defensive coordinator John Pagano.

The first play of the game was a 6-yard pass from Philip Rivers to Antonio Gates, who appears healthy and is playing well in training camp.

Gates said the play wasn’t necessarily scripted that way, because you never know where the ball’s going with Rivers.

The pair would connect for a 23-yard touchdown pass later in the first quarter.

Some of the younger players also captured the attention of Gates, including Ingram.

“I think (Ingram’s) going to be a phenomenal player in this league,” Gates said after the game. “(The) things that he is capable of doing — he’s a good football player…that’s one thing we knew and they talked about in the draft and we were able to see it up close today.”

Ingram said that he’s been studying the playbook he was given following the draft. Gates said that experience and the physicality of the young players is necessary to help make an impression and to help them make the team.

“The mental capacity is always a big part of what you do…because you can have all the ability in the world, but if you can’t understand what’s going on, the play calling, then you’ll never have the chance to play,” Gates said.

“At the same time, you still…have to run and catch, because it’s still football.”

Turner said that the team’s identity is starting to come into focus. He added that their identity is going to be that they’re fast and high-energy and very physical.

“This team has got great energy and I think is feeding off each other,” he said. “They like football. And as I said, we have a lot of new guys and I think right now they’re trying to impress each other with their ability to go play.”

The Chargers final two practices open to the public are Aug. 13 and Aug. 14 at Chargers Park. The final preseason home game is Aug. 18 against the Dallas Cowboys.

 

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