Chargers Look Brilliant For Resting Rivers

Rash of high-profile NFL injuries shines light on preseason perils

In Week 2 of the NFL’s preseason the Redskins lost starting quarterback Robert Griffin III to a concussion (no word on how long he’ll be out), the Packers lost Pro Bowl wide receiver Jordy Nelson for the season to a torn ACL and the Steelers lost All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey for what will likely be the season with a broken ankle.

All of those things happened in games that have exactly zero impact on those teams’ chances of reaching the Super Bowl, and that’s what really frustrates Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

"This is a sport we're all going to be injured at some point," Rodgers said. "It's a 100% injury rate for every player. You're going to deal with it. You just hate to see it in the preseason because it doesn't count for anything."

That’s one of the main reasons the Chargers decided long ago to hold quarterback and franchise cornerstone Philip Rivers out of their second exhibition game, which they won 22-19 in Arizona on Saturday night. It’s also one of the main reasons head coach Mike McCoy decided the days leading up to the Cardinals game that he would not let running back Melvin Gordon risk further injury to his ankle, or cornerback Jason Verrett to risk further injury to his hamstring.

But now, seeing the losses from over the weekend, will McCoy be even more cautious with his starting players in the next two preseason games?

“No,” McCoy said on Monday. “You feel terrible for those teams. It’s a bad part of the business, like what happened with us with Tourek and Johnnie (Williams and Troutman, both out with broken bones suffered in the first preseason game against Dallas). It’s the bad part of the business. I mean, it sucks. But it could happen any play any day. It could happen on the practice field. It’s all part of the game.”

As Rodgers alluded to, this is a sport where every player deals with some kind of injury. But it’s natural for a coaching staff to want to shield players from having it happen when a regular season or playoff game is at stake. McCoy says, despite what may be happening to other teams, the Chargers are sticking to the script.

“We have a plan for every player,” McCoy said. “Certain players are going to stay in longer than others. We’re going to do the same thing this week.”

Does doing the same thing mean sitting Rivers again or will he play on Saturday evening against the Seahawks at Qualcomm Stadium?

“Yeah, he’s playing this week,” McCoy said.

How much is the big question mark. That plan McCoy says he has for every player is written in pencil, not chiseled in stone.

“It can change. The coaches ask me that, too. They go crazy all the time when they say, ‘How many plays?’ I say I’m not putting a play count on it. If someone comes in and plays well and I’ve seen enough we’ll take him out. If we want to let him stay in a little longer for some situation like a 2-minute drill it could change.”

However long Rivers and the starting offense or Eric Weddle and the starting defense are on the field against Seattle, soak it up while you can. There is zero chance they see any action in Santa Clara against the 49ers on September 3. In his first two preseasons as a head coach McCoy has held out the majority of his starters in the final preseason game and there’s no reason to believe he’ll do anything differently this year.

The Chargers have until September 1 to cut their roster to 75 players, then another four days to decide on their final 53-man unit (not including practice squad players and any potential signees who are last-minute cuts from other rosters). Sitting his starters gives McCoy comfort in knowing his playmakers will be safe and the added bonus of getting a good look at whom else might be a difference-maker down the line.

“The big thing is to see some guys play against better competition sometimes, move them up with the first group and see what they can do.”

As we’ve all learned (and been reminded this weekend) about the NFL, it’s best to know what they can do now because odds are you’re going to need them do that at some point during games that count in the standings.

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