Chargers RB Gordon practices but remains game-time decision
COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Melvin Gordon wants to suit up for the Los Angeles Chargers' biggest game of the season Thursday night at Kansas City, but he says his status will likely not be decided until 90 minutes before kickoff.
The fourth-year running back has missed the past two games after spraining the MCL in his right knee during the second half of the Chargers' Nov. 26 win against Arizona. He is sixth in the AFC in rushing with 802 yards despite missing three games and leads the conference in rushing average per game (80.2).
Gordon said he is stronger and confident about the knee, but he acknowledges that it will not be 100 percent if he plays against the Chiefs. He was listed as limited on the team's Tuesday practice report, which was the first time he has participated in a practice since the injury.
"We need all the playmakers we need to beat KC," he said. "We have so much at stake right now and I want to help I can. If I can't go out there and be me and can't make my cuts I don't want to be out there."
The Chargers (10-3) can clinch their first playoff spot since 2013 with a win against the Chiefs (11-2). It would also move them into a tie with Kansas City atop the AFC West, but the Chiefs would hold the tiebreaker due to a better division record.
Los Angeles will need to win out if it has any hopes of winning the division and then hope Kansas City drops one of its final two games, which are at Seattle and home to Oakland.
Gordon is averaging 3.7 yards per carry in six games against the Chiefs, which is below his career average of 4.1. He has made a bigger impact as a receiver in the past two meetings with 15 receptions for 193 yards. He had nine catches for 102 yards in the Sept. 9 loss to the Chiefs.
"If I sat out until the playoffs. I could wait and know I would be full go. It's just being smart and not prolonging injury," Gordon said.
Gordon's status is more complicated with backup Austin Ekeler in concussion protocol and dealing with a bruised nerve in his neck, which occurred late in Sunday's 26-21 win over Cincinnati. That could leave the Chargers relying on a pair of rookies. Justin Jackson will see a bigger role — either getting his first career start or as the backup — and Detrez Newsome could see his first significant action at running back.
Another factor is that the Chargers are not having full practices due to the short week. Coach Anthony Lynn said they can get a lot accomplished during walkthroughs.
"I really think if you focus and lock in in the meeting room like you should, you come out on the field and you go at a slower tempo but mentally you're there and you're in the present moment," he said. "I think you can get just as good of work done as full speed without the collisions and injury. There's a skill and an art to practicing without the pads and walking through, and I think this club is getting better at that."
Philip Rivers has confidence in the two rookies if Gordon and Ekeler are unable to go.
"They are two young guys who are sharp. There will be added emphasis on my part to communicate, especially with the crowd noise, so that they can play fast," Rivers said. "If that's the case, we'll just roll and go."