LOS ANGELES -- A frustrated Brandon Staley on Monday pushed back when questioned about why Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Quentin Johnston did not return to Sunday's game despite being cleared to do so, insisting the reason had nothing to do with the rookie first-round pick's play.
Johnston, who suffered a rib injury in the third quarter against the Baltimore Ravens, was cleared by trainers and told ESPN in the locker room afterward that he felt good to go back in. But Chargers coach Staley, discussing the situation postgame, said, "We didn't feel like -- through the flow of the game, with where he was -- that it was the right thing to go back into the game."
The Chargers ended up losing to the Ravens 20-10 to drop to 4-7 on the season. Johnston recorded one reception for 7 yards, while fellow rookie receiver Zay Flowers -- who was selected by the Ravens one pick after Johnston in the 2023 NFL draft -- finished with 62 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Staley, in a frustrated response to reporters on Monday, said that Johnston's return didn't have anything to do with his performance on the field.
"It's not because of a lack of confidence. It's not because of any other part of your imagination," Staley said. "Quentin will be out there if he's able to be out there."
When another reporter asked a follow-up question that began with "I don't mean to belabor the point on Quentin," Staley interrupted: "You are belaboring the point," before explaining his reasoning as to why Johnston didn't play through his injury while others on the team did.
"It was a rib injury. OK? Your ribs affect how you breathe. OK? He plays a position where you have to reach in order to catch things," Staley said. "So it affects the position, and so he was cleared to go back in the game, but there was apprehension on my part of putting him back in there until he felt good enough, and that is the storyline."
Chargers receivers have played through injuries all year. Keenan Allen is currently playing through a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder, Joshua Palmer played through a knee sprain before going on injured reserve and Jalen Guyton played through a groin injury Sunday. And then there are many players in other position groups playing through injuries suffered in the team's first 11 games.
For that reason, Johnston not returning to a game the Chargers needed to win in order to turn their season around was all the more concerning.
Staley also said that X-rays on Johnston's ribs were negative and that he expects him to be at practice this week. The Chargers will look to avoid losing four games in a row when they travel to New England (2-9) on Sunday.