While two-time NFL rushing champion LaDainian Tomlinson said he
should be able to play in Sunday's AFC Championship Game, the
Chargers know quarterback Philip Rivers will be gimpy with a
sprained right knee if he's able to play against the undefeated
New England Patriots.
Rivers was listed as questionable. He injured his medial
collateral ligament when he landed awkwardly after completing a
56-yard screen pass to Darren Sproles for a touchdown on the final
play of the third quarter in Sunday's 28-24 upset of the Colts.
Coach Norv Turner compared Rivers' situation with that of tight
end Antonio Gates. Gates dislocated his left big toe in a wild-card
win over Tennessee, sat out practice all week and then played
against the Colts.
"Right now, it's probably questionable in terms of playing in
the game, but [Rivers has] got a chance," Turner said Monday. "That will
be a day-to-day thing and we'll monitor it as the week goes on."
Rivers was having tests on the knee and wasn't available to the
media. He completed 14 of 19 passes for 264 yards and three
touchdowns against the Colts before leaving. Rivers went to the
locker room during the game and returned to the sideline with a
brace on the knee, but didn't get back in.
Billy Volek took over and led the go-ahead drive, scoring the
winning touchdown on a 1-yard sneak.
San Diego had to rely on other backups on Sunday, namely running
backs Michael Turner and Sproles.
The Chargers already are huge underdogs against the Patriots,
and the injuries won't make it any easier.
"I'm concerned," Norv Turner said. "I mean, I'm real concerned.
We're lucky, or we're fortunate, to have a Darren Sproles, have a
Michael Turner, have a Brandon McKinney, but you can only withstand
so many hits.
"And obviously Billy played great and went in and did the
things he had to. But we're getting ready to play the best team in
the National Football League. We need to rally the troops and get
everyone as healthy as we can be. I've been saying it since August,
we want to be at our best. I hope we haven't played our best game
yet. That's what we're trying to get done this week."
Rivers sprained his left knee against Tennessee on Dec. 9 and
hobbled off the field. He returned and played well in the second
half, throwing a touchdown pass to Gates with 9 seconds left to
force overtime. The Chargers won it on Tomlinson's TD run.
The Chargers were without Tomlinson for a good deal of the Colts
game after he hurt his left knee in the second quarter. He said he
expects to play against the Patriots.
"It's nothing serious, just a hyperextension," Tomlinson said.
"I think they've got me listed as questionable, but I'm pretty
sure I'll be able to play. Obviously, I'm going to do all I can to
practice. I don't want to miss any time to practice."
Tomlinson carried only seven times, for 28 yards, and caught one
pass for 20 yards. He's rushed for just 70 yards in San Diego's two
Tomlinson and Rivers said on Sunday that they felt they could
have gone back in if needed. But Norv Turner said it was a medical
decision to keep Tomlinson on the sideline.
"He couldn't have gone in, is the way I understand it," Norv Turner
The coach added that the screen pass Sproles scored on had been
designed for Tomlinson.
"But I felt great about the play with Darren in, and he
Norv Turner said Gates' toe is "no worse than it was last week. I
would think it would be late in the week or Sunday, go out and warm
up again and see how he feels."
The Chargers say they're a much different team than the one that
was blown out 38-14 by Tom Brady, Randy Moss and the rest of the
Patriots in the season's second game. That was when the Chargers
were stumbling to a 1-3 start. They righted their early season
wrongs by winning 12 of 14, including eight straight.
"Obviously it was a long time ago from week two, but it's still
going to be a heck of a challenge," Tomlinson said.
"You appreciate getting an opportunity to play them," he
added. "We know how good they are. We played them obviously in
week two, but we have played them in years past. And they've always
been good. They've always kind of been that benchmark team that
everybody looks to and so it's just a great opportunity to get a
chance to play against possibly the greatest team to ever play."
The Chargers also lost to the Patriots in last year's divisional
round, falling 24-21 after going an NFL-best 14-2 in the regular
Other injuries were DT Jamal Williams (ankle), DE Luis
Castillo (ribs) and CB Antonio Cromartie (sore knee). Turner said
they should be all right. Fullback Lorenzo Neal returned to
practice last week for the first time since breaking his lower left
leg at Tennessee on Dec. 9, but was inactive against the Colts.
Norv Turner thinks he'll be ready to play this Sunday.