Wide Receiver Malcom Floyd #80 of the San Diego Chargers catches a touchdown pass and celebrates with teammate Vincent Jackson #83 against the New England Patriots during the first half of their NFL Game on October 12, 2008 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.
Sometime on Sunday, not long into their 16th and final game, the Chargers will do something they haven't done all season.
Because they can.
The past two years, it has been an ordinary arrangement. In Sunday's game against the Broncos (4-11), getting the team's top three wide receivers on the field for the same play will be an accomplishment.
“It's kind of a weird year when -- and everyone deals with injuries -- but when not even once this year did we have our whole roster out there,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “Not even once, so it's crazy. Even this game, we get those three guys, but (tight end Antonio) Gates is out. It's weird. It's just been a weird year.”
When fullback Billy Latsko starts in place of Jacob Hester (knee) as expected, the Chargers (8-7) will tie an NFL record by suiting 74 players in a non-strike year.
Jackson missed the first 10 games due to a contract dispute. His first game back, on Nov. 28 against the Colts, was the first time the wide receiver core was active for the same game. Two snaps in, Jackson left the game with a calf strain before the Chargers trio could share a play. He missed the next week.
Floyd has been plagued by injuries to both hamstrings, appearing in three of the past nine games and missing the past two. He is listed as probable.
Naanee sustained a hamstring injury in the fourth game of the season and missed the next six. He has appeared in three of the past five games, including last week when he had four receptions for a team-high 59 yards.
“I think it's great to finally be back together,” Floyd said. “It's something we've kind of been waiting for and hoping for this year.”
"It's been a long year," Jackson said. "Obviously things haven't gone as smoothly as possible with injuries and other things, but we want to finish on a positive note and have fun out there."
Naanee, who watched slot receiver Patrick Crayton emerge as a game-breaker in his absence, acknowledges Sunday's first time together could also be the group's last.
He, Jackson, Floyd are all in the last years of their contracts. Jackson will likely be franchise tagged next season while both Floyd and Naanee could theoretically be re-signed over the coming months.
But as Rivers said, “Who knows?”
“If it's my last year here,” Nannee said, “I want this last game to be something I can look back at and say, 'We went out that last game and we played and we had fun.' Or 'this game was the game all three of us were out there, and we got going right.' Next year coming in, it could be the thing that shoots us off right from the start.”