Bad break for Chargers running back Ryan Mathews renews doubts about durability

Posted: 08/09/2012 in football
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There are few things more meaningless than a preseason opener in the NFL.

But there are things that occur in those games that mean something – and typically they are bad developments.

San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews has developed a soft reputation over his first two NFL seasons and breaking his collarbone on his first carry of the preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers isn’t going to help matters.

The initial forecast calls for Mathews to miss four to six weeks but his established level of toughness doesn’t make being healthy for the regular-season opener against the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 10 seem reasonable.

This is the season in which Mathews is supposed to break out and provide the Chargers with their best rushing attack since future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson began declining. There has been chatter – a bunch of it by San Diego coach Norv Turner – about getting Mathews 300-plus touches and seeing him finally become a workhorse.

The club’s optimism stemmed from Mathews’ late-season surge in 2011. He put together three consecutive 100-yard games late in the season to finish with 1,091 yards.

The Chargers let Mike Tolbert leave via free agency and were hoping injury prone veteran Ronnie Brown could spell Mathews. Now the 30-year-old Brown is the top healthy back on a roster that includes names like Curtis Brinkley, Jackie Battle and Michael Hayes as tailback options.

You can count on Chargers general manager A.J. Smith bringing in a veteran back in upcoming days to shore up the situation.

As for Mathews, he will have surgery Friday and missing two or three games to start the season doesn’t mean he can’t recover and have a solid season. The problem is the trend of ailments that the 25-year-old Mathews continues to suffer raises questions about his reliability and durability.

You can’t become a bona fide workhorse back while standing on the sidelines in street clothes.

The Chargers defeated the Packers 21-13 in the game that doesn’t matter but did become part of NFL trivia history due to Shannon Eastin serving as line judge. Eastin is the first female to officiate an NFL game.

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