Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Winless Chargers hurting physically

- By Elliott Teaford

COSTA MESA >> Linebacker Eric Kendricks’ Minnesota homecoming will have to wait. He was ruled out of the Chargers’ game Sunday against the Vikings because of a nagging hamstring injury. Running back Austin Ekeler’s return to the field is on hold, too, because of an injured ankle.

Edge rusher Joey Bosa was listed as questionab­le Friday, but said his injured hamstring was much improved and he would play a to-be-determined number of snaps. Linebacker Daiyan Henley (hamstring), edge rusher Chris Rumph II (hamstring) and defensive lineman Christophe­r Hinton (back) also were questionab­le.

Just when the Chargers needed to be at their best, they’re not anywhere close to it physically.

The Chargers are 0-2 and desperate to avoid a 0-3 start that would make advancing to the playoffs next to impossible. Only six teams since 1979 have rebounded from a 0-3 start to reach the postseason. The Chargers haven’t been 0-3 since going 0-4 to start the 2017 season.

The Chargers recovered to go 9-7, but still missed the playoffs.

Players and coaches this week stressed the notion of sticking together. A turnaround is possible. “To pretend that two weeks is going to define your entire season is just — I mean, it can if you shut down, but you can also use this moment to come together, which I think the guys have,” Bosa said. “The energy’s been good. Nobody’s been feeling sorry for themselves or whatever. So, yeah, we’re feeling good.”

Well, mentally perhaps that’s true.

Physically, it’s a different story.

Coach Brandon Staley wasn’t as optimistic as Bosa about Bosa’s participat­ion Sunday.

“We’re going to see how he feels between now and the game,” Staley said.

The Chargers will be without one of the NFL’S most productive running backs the past two seasons for the second consecutiv­e game. Ekeler led the league with 20 touchdowns in 2021 and 18 in 2022. He rushed for 117 yards and one touchdown in the season-opening loss Sept. 10 to the Miami Dolphins.

An ankle injury suffered against the Dolphins also sidelined Ekeler for all of the Chargers’ practices in Week 2 and for last Sunday’s overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans. Staley said Ekeler’s status beyond Sunday was “to be determined ... we’ll see how it goes in the next few weeks.”

Staley said Ekeler didn’t suffer a setback in recent days.

Joshua Kelley will start in place of Ekeler for the second consecutiv­e game.

“I thought Josh had a good game on Sunday,” Staley said of Kelley, who rushed for 39 yards on 13 carries against the Titans after he had 91 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries against the Dolphins. “It was a tough game running the football. I thought he protected the passer well.

“We have the utmost confidence in him.”

The Chargers also will be without Kendricks, who played eight seasons with the Vikings after he was drafted in the second round out of UCLA in 2015. He signed with the Chargers as a free agent during the offseason to replace linebacker Drue Tranquill, who departed via free agency.

Henley, a rookie from Washington State, could replace Kendricks on Sunday, playing alongside Kenneth Murray Jr. Staley said Murray on Sunday against Tennessee played his “best game since I’ve been the coach. I thought that he had a winning performanc­e.” Murray had 10 tackles.

 ?? GEORGE WALKER IV — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Joey Bosa had this sack of Titans quarterbac­k Ryan Tannehill last week but has an injured hamstring.
GEORGE WALKER IV — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Joey Bosa had this sack of Titans quarterbac­k Ryan Tannehill last week but has an injured hamstring.

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