After over three weeks in the shop, running back Ryan Mathews said he feels fast, strong and ready to return to the Chargers.
The rookie practiced in full for the second straight day on Thursday and is set to play Sunday for the first time since aggravating a high right ankle sprain on Nov. 7 against the Texans.
“It’s like having a flat tire,” Mathews said. “If you're on a bicycle and you have a flat tire, you can’t ride as fast and you can’t turn right. That’s what it was. I just had to take some time and fix the flat and get it back up.”
Mathews originally suffered the injury in the second game of the season when his ankle was caught in a pile of Jaguars defenders. Eager to contribute to the team, he prematurely returned after missing only one game.
Matthews has said multiple times he regrets returning so soon, and his ankle feels better now than it did before aggravating the injury in Houston.
In the two games he has missed, converted fullback Mike Tolbert has carried the load, averaging 25.5 carries and 107 yards with two touchdowns.
The 12th overall pick from Fresno State has been watching the veteran closely, specifically how Tolbert has exceeded 20 yards on a carry in both those games and has done it six times overall this season.
The top sports headlines of the day
“He breaks off those long runs because he's so patient,” said Mathews, whose season-long run is of 20 yards. “He's able to wait for the holes to develop and then he hits them with force.”
As he's done most of the season, coach Norv Turner is expected to continue to mix and match the two primary running backs on Sunday when the Chargers (6-5) host the Raiders (5-6).
On Wednesday, Turner said Mathews' role on the offense “hasn't changed."
"He just hasn't been here,” Turner said. “Obviously, we need every guy that we can get going, every guy that can make plays, and we're going to need Ryan as we go through this next stretch.”