(News4usonline) – The immediate takeaway from the Thursday Night Football game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs is that the injury suffered by quarterback Justin Herbert is minor and not a major issue. Chargers head coach Brandon Staley revealed the day after the Chargers lost on the road to the Chiefs that Herbert had fractured his rib cartilage.
“Justin has a fracture to his rib cartilage,” Staley said. “It’s good news, better than having a fracture of your bone in the ribs, but the CT scan did confirm that. He’s day-to-day. I think that we’ll know a lot more about practice and stuff like that on Wednesday. Going to take the weekend, certainly, and the beginning of next week —Monday, Tuesday —to learn a lot more, but day-to-day.”
Herbert not sustaining a more serious injury after being roughed up pretty well by the Kansas City defense in the fourth quarter gave Staley and the Chargers a huge sigh of relief.
It appeared that Herbert was injured when he took a hard but legal hit from Kansas City defensive end Mike Danna. After being taken to the ground in a near-sack, Herbert could be seen grimacing in pain. For the rest of the game, Herbert played with that grimace, unable to lead his team to its second win of the season. As far as the hit on Herbert, Staley didn’t have a problem with it.
“Yeah. It’s football,” Staley said. “You’re going to have some moments where you’re going to feel like that, and that’s not just exclusive to the quarterback position. I’m out there. There’s nobody that cares about Justin [Herbert] more than I do, more than we do. You know that that is part of the game. It’s a tough game.”
Staley continued, “As long as he feels like he can go in that moment, then that’s what we’re going to roll with. I think he did a good job of protecting himself. I think that that’s what you saw, that he’s a really smart player. He’s not going to put himself at risk. In that moment, he’s not going to take one more extra hit than he needs to, and that’s what he did last night.”
The immediate takeaway from this AFC West Division rivalry game so early in the season is that both teams played well. It was another close game between these two teams and the final outcome didn’t fully materialize until the end of the game.
The second point is the Chargers have now played two division rivals through their first two games in a span of five days. The Chargers have split those two games after defeating the Las Vegas Raiders at home in Week 1 before dropping a 27-24 contest on the road. After two games, the Chargers are 1-1. Not too bad.
“After the game, I told the team, I told you guys, that I love the way that we competed in the game,” said Staley. “I felt like we showed the type of competitiveness and the type of togetherness that you need in an environment like that. At the same time, we didn’t make the winning plays that can close that game out.”
Herbert played sensational against the Chiefs, completing 33 of his 48 passes for 334 yards and three touchdowns. Herbert’s production every week has become almost expected, sort of routine. What is not expected is the team’s franchise quarterback missing any time during the season due to any unforeseen incident.
Since playing professional football is a physical contact sport, on any given day, any given time, the unseen is always lurking around the corner. In this case, it was Herbert getting dropped multiple times in the second half as Kansas City overcame an early game deficit to rally for the win. In the meantime, Herbert kept getting hit and hit again.
The hits kept coming. Herbert kept falling, finally getting to the point where it was very noticeable that the third-year quarterback began grimacing in obvious pain. Whatever pain he felt, it got to the point where Herbert was not able to even lift up his left arm. A rib injury will do that.
It’s only been two games, but already anxiety hangs in the balance for the Chargers. Though Staley clarified that Herbert’s return is a day-to-day evaluation process, the uncertainty of how well his body responds in recovery is up in the air. Without Herbert under center for the Chargers for any amount of time this season, especially with the AFC West Division being levied as probably the toughest in the NFL, would be a challenge.
Anyone watching the Chargers play the Chiefs, saw the third-year signal-caller get bounced around more than a few times by an unrelenting pass rush. You could not help but witness Herbert grimacing in pain as he got tossed to the turf by several Kansas City defenders in the Chargers’ road defeat.
The most obvious sign that Herbert was injured or playing in pain was when he passed up an opportunity to run a few yards for a first down and simply gave up on the play and threw the ball into the ground for an incomplete pass late in the fourth quarter.
It was a telling play. With the Chargers trailing 27-17 and needing a first down, Herbert, who has been incredibly resilient as a playmaker the past two seasons, gave up on the play.
At any other time or place, Herbert makes that play with either his right arm or his feet 10 out of 10 times. Fortunately, Herbert and the Chargers have little more than a week to get ready for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Staley isn’t rushing his franchise quarterback back on the field until the time is right.
“I think that we received good news, in terms of what the CT scan expressed,” Staley remarked. “I think that that’s good news. Playing quarterback, you don’t want it to be to the bones, you don’t want it to be a fracture of the bone. The fact that it’s cartilage is a good sign. But, again, it’s just going to come down to comfort. It’s such a rotational position, we’re just going to have to make sure that he’s comfortable. We’re not going to know more about how he feels until later on in the week. Let the weekend calm down, then the first couple of days [of next week], and then we’ll get into game week. I think that we will have a lot better sense of how he is feeling.”
Featured Image: KANSAS CITY, MO – SEPTEMBER 15: Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Mike Danna (51) puts a hard hit on Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) in the fourth quarter of an NFL game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs on September 15, 2022 at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)