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After a calf injury forced Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson to the sidelines two plays into his Sunday night season debut, any conspiracy theories about the ailment's legitimacy were thoroughly debunked on Monday.
Chargers coach Norv Turner announced that a morning MRI confirmed Jackson's calf strain. He said it will “probably be hard” for the veteran to play in Sunday's game against the Raiders.
“There’s considerable swelling in his calf,” Turner said. “There’s a lot of soreness in his calf.... I may be premature in saying it’ll be hard for him this week, but I want to be realistic, so everyone out there speculating on what it is also is realistic.”
Many sports commentators and fans have wondered aloud if Jackson, who missed the season's first 10 games due to a contract dispute, could have played through the injury but chose not to because of the long-term security his current one-year tender lacks.
Agent Neil Schwartz called those speculations “totally absurd” in a phone interview.
To Jackson's credit, his work ethic and team commitment have not been an issue since reporting to the Chargers on Oct. 29. He arrived in strong physical shape, and teammates and coaches have raved about his contributions in practice.
It is also common for a calf strain to sideline a player. On the Cowboys, for instance, running back Marion Barber and defensive end Marcus Spears are both suffering from calf strains. Barber is expected to miss at least this week's game, and Spears is out four-to-six weeks.
When asked about the widespread reaction to Jackson's injury, running back Mike Tolbert was quick to jump to his teammate's defense.
“I've played with him for two, going on three years now,” Tolbert said. “I mean, he has so much heart that if he could play with it, he would. I saw him when he did it in practice a couple of days ago. It didn't look good, but he was still out there trying to fight through it. Actually, some of the coaches had to tell him to calm down.”
A league source confirmed Jackson suffered an injury last week in practice. The injury was not to the same calf that forced Jackson out of the Chargers' 36-14 win over the Colts, but it was enough to cause him to overcompensate and injure his calf during pre-game warmups.
After two plays, it was clear the injury was too severe to play through, and Jackson missed the rest of the game.
No official timetable has been announced for Jackson's return. Turner said the team will take it "week-to-week."
"I don't think anybody can question him," said linebacker Stephen Cooper. "He's a competitor. He's a guy who wants to go out there and show people he can still play at a high level. Going into a contract year, you don't want to be seen as injury-prone and not showing your talents, so we know if he's hurt, he's hurt."