Key Cogs Still Out

RB Ryan Mathews (Gregory Bull/AP)

Well the gang was all there -- almost. The Chargers knocked off the rust and returned to the practice field Monday, one week shy of their next game. That comes on Monday Night Football when they put their two-game winning streak on the line and tangle with the suddenly brawny Denver Broncos.

But first, the Chargers wanted to get healthy. And for the most part they did after limping to their bye with a 4-5 mark.

Coach Norv Turner was clear this bye would be more about recuperating than switching schemes and changing philosophy.

So it was curious to see who was among the Chargers not suiting up Monday, the first day back.

No Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates.

No running back Ryan Mathews.


TE Antonio Gates
Stephen Dunn/Getty
Gates, who is having a sensational year with nine touchdown catches, remains out with toe and foot issues. He didn't play in the previous game and his chances for this week could be helped with the game being played on Monday.

He's ailing.

Mathews looks even more questionable as his mixed rookie season labors on. Mathews appeared past his ankle injury that he suffered in Week 2. But he aggravated it in Houston and didn't work Monday.

Wide receiver Legedu Naanee was also out as his troublesome hamstring continues to restrict him.

But for the most part, the posse was back and that only helps the Chargers' mojo in reaching the teeth of their AFC West schedule.

The four-time defending division champions face the Broncos, Raiders and Chiefs -- all at home -- in four of their next games.

NOTES, QUOTES

--K Nate Kaeding remains on track to be active for the first time since getting hurt on Oct. 17."It's not unlike a pitcher coming back from injury," Kaeding said. "If I would regularly make 25-30 attempts a day, I'm working with 10-12 right now. The goal is to build strength and endurance over the week and peak on Monday night against Denver. I've seen a lot of progress. We're looking to clear that last hurdle and get this thing rested and ready to get back at it."

--Undrafted rookie WR Seyi Ajirotutu stepped in for two touchdown catches in the win over Houston and will stick when other receivers return healthy. "He's in that mold of Malcom Floyd," coach Norv Turner said. "He's a big guy that, when he gets going, he can cover a lot of ground. I think the thing you don't know until you're around a guy a long time is he's got a great feel for playing the game. That's something that goes beyond coaching. We have a system that we're very disciplined in terms of what we do but, within that system, players have to make good decisions and he does that. He will make tough catches and he obviously can get deep, so he's an exciting young player for us."

--Rookie RB Ryan Mathews paid the first-round piper. Mathews continued a Chargers tradition in which the top pick treats the veterans to dinner. Some 30 teammates and some $20,000 later, Mathews made sure the tradition lived on. Last year, Larry English paid $14,500 for his rookie dinner.

PLAYER NOTES

--WR Malcom Floyd (hamstring) was limited in his Monday practice but appears on track to play Nov. 22.

--ILB Brandon Siler (foot) was limited. Siler's a critical player on special teams as well.

--RG Kris Dielman, a Pro Bowler, is working again after missing the last game with a concussion.

--SS Steve Gregory is back working. He was sidelined in the previous game with a shoulder injury.

--SS Pat Watkins, a 6-5, 220-pound free agent, was signed. He's a fifth-year player that spent his first four seasons with the Cowboys. He played in 13 games last season and finished second on the team with 18 special teams tackles; 22 on defense.

--WR Gary Banks was released.



Talk about all of San Diego's injured star players inside the message boards.




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