Can Mathews stay healthy for long haul?

An otherwise solid night for the San Diego Chargers was soiled with the news that running back Ryan Mathews' availability for the start of the regular season is in question.

After a 21-13 win over Green Bay, in which the Chargers looked good on both sides of the ball, San Diego coach Norv Turner said Mathews, a third-year tailback who was expected to have a huge season in 2011, will miss 4-6 weeks with a broken clavicle. Mathews will have surgery Friday.

San Diego opens the regular season in 31 days at Oakland on ESPN’s "Monday Night Football." There are no guarantees he will be ready for that game.

The fact that Mathews will miss a game or two of the regular season is not the end of the world. But is has to be discouraging for the team because so much was expected out of Mathews, who has dealt with his share of nagging injuries since his college days.

For Mathews to get hurt after one carry in the preseason has to put this question in the forefront of everyone’s minds: Can he really stay healthy enough to be the workhorse San Diego wants him to be in 2012?

This team has big plans for Mathews. He is supposed to touch the ball 20-25 times a game, catch the ball out of the backfield, and play on third down and in short yardage.

While he is out, San Diego will rely on several backs including veterans Ronnie Brown and Jackie Battle. But if San Diego’s offense is going to reach its maximum potential, Mathews will have to shake off this injury and stay healthy once he returns.