Antonio Gates #85, Philip Rivers #17 and Vincent Jackson #83 of the San Diego Chargers wait to take the field before the game against the Green Bay Packers at Qualcomm Stadium on November 6, 2011 in San Diego, California.
There was no hopping up and down. No yelling or chanting.
Quietly, every last remaining San Diego Chargers player circled together at the start of Wednesday's practice for a double-secret players-only pow-wow. Afterward, they were about as forthcoming of the roughly two-minute gathering as a USS Carl Vinson sailor asked about the burial at sea.
"I wasn't aware," center Nick Hardwick said with his best poker face. "I didn't know. I wish I could help you."
"Ah, nah," linebacker Takeo Spikes said. "We usually do that all the time, so it was nothing."
Fine. But if this mystery meeting had a message, it was this: The season ain't over yet.
Riding a five-game losing streak with the surging Denver Broncos coming to town, the reeling and injury-depleted Chargers have their backs to the proverbial wall, and only a rally — the kind of rally most off that Mission Valley field give the group little chance to assemble — can cure their dying playoff hopes.
The Chargers (4-6) are two games back of the first-place Oakland Raiders (6-4) in the AFC West and saw their last victory come Oct. 9 against these same Broncos. Led by quarterback Tim Tebow, Denver has won three straight to improve to second in the West at 5-5.
A straightforward answer about that afternoon meeting wasn't to be had.
Quarterback Philip Rivers obliged, though, a request to play the hypothetical game.
Hypothetically, if the team was beginning a critical week of practice, and hypothetically, if he was to say something to the group — Rivers appeared to be at the center of the commotion — well then, what would Rivers say?
You know, hypothetically.
"I didn't tell them anything today, if you're leaning that way," Rivers said. "I didn't say a word. But we've been in this position before. Not five games lost, but we've been in the position where things aren't going good but we still have a chance. Sulking about it, feeling sorry for ourselves, certainly isn't going to get us out of it.
"If you can try to have a short memory, just think about today, we're all going to live our childhood dream. We get to play an NFL game on Sunday. It hasn't gone the way we wanted. Nobody's pleased. We're all disappointed — so far.
"But the book's not over. The book hasn't ended this season. We've still got work to do. We really are going to determine the ending of the story. A lot of people may have already put the book down, but we're going to fight like crazy to make this a special season. The only way that's going to happen is to win a game, and until we do that, it's not going to happen. Everyone in this locker room believes it can."
Noticeable during the Chargers' pep talk was the players absent from it.
They don't have center/guard Scott Mruczkowski, who will be placed on injured reserve Thursday after suffering a concussion Sunday against the Chicago Bears. He made his first career start in place of left guard Kris Dielman (IR, concussion) and replacement Tyronne Green (inactive, hand).
Wide receiver Malcom Floyd, who has missed the past three games, is still not close to returning from a hip injury.
"I saw (Floyd) two hours ago," coach Norv Turner said after practice. "He was laying on the trainer's table, getting treatment. I don't know if you'll see a lot of him in the next couple weeks, but he's doing everything he can to get healthy. Right now, he's not been able to do it."
Asked if Floyd would be placed on injured reserve, Turner was noncommital, responding, "Hopefully not."
Floyd and Mruczkowski were two of eight Chargers who did not practice. The others: Green, tackle Marcus McNeill, guard Louis Vasquez, linebacker Shaun Phillips, cornerback Marcus Gilchrist and defensive end Luis Castillo.
Mathews Sore But OK
Running back Ryan Mathews was a late addition to the injury report after exiting practice early with lingering knee soreness from Sunday's game.
Turner did not provide a concrete timetable for his return, but Mathews was upbeat in the locker room and said he could have finished practice.
He expects to return Thursday.