SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 30: Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers drops back to pass in the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers during an NFL pre-season football game at Candlestick Park on August 30, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Jared Gaither is 6'9" tall and weighs 335 pounds. He's a hard guy to miss.
So if you don't see number 78 in the stretching line at Chargers practice, it's not because you just couldn't see him. It's because he wasn't there.
That's become an alarming, recurring occurrence at the Charges practice facility. Gaither, who signed a 4-year, $24 million contract in the off-season, hasn't played since the first day of training camp, back on July 26, due to back problems.
So, the starting left tackle job falls to Mike Harris. The undrafted rookie from UCLA will be protecting Philip Rivers' blind side until Gaither is healthy again. In the pre-season Harris had moments where he looked good, and others where he looked like a rookie. The question is, when the games start counting, can he have more of the former and less of the latter?
"You're just gotta go with what you see, what you trust, and what you believe," said head coach Norv Turner. "I like what our left tackle's done. He's just gotta hold down the fort until we get Gaither back."
Rivers will always tell you he has complete confidence in the guys in front of him, which he probably does. He really doesn't have any other choice.
However, there's a reason left tackle is, on average, the highest-paid position in the NFL. Quarterbacks are the highest-paid, so you'd better have some darn good players keeping them safe.
In 2012, Harris will make $390,000. This year Rivers' base salary pays him $637,500. Per game.
I don't know if that means Philip is in trouble, but I do hope the old saying "You get what you pay for" is horribly wrong.