COSTA MESA, Calif. — Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon said he expects the decision on whether he plays Thursday night in a nationally televised game against the Kansas City Chiefs to go all the way until game time.
“I’ve been grinding hard to get back and we’re still trying to decide what we’re going to do,” Gordon said Tuesday. “I know Coach [Anthony Lynn] is trying to be careful and doesn’t want me to further hurt myself or things like that. So we’ll see where that goes, but I’m a lot stronger and more confident than I was last week.”
Move over, Patriots-Steelers. This season’s marquee matchup goes through Kansas City in a game that could determine more than just the conference’s No. 1 seed.
Gordon suffered a sprained right knee against the Arizona Cardinals that forced him to miss the past two games. The Wisconsin product looked better than expected while working with trainers on the field before the Chargers’ win over the Cincinnati Bengals last week, but he remains a question mark to play on Thursday.
Gordon said the decision would be a mutual one made between himself, the medical staff and Chargers’ brass. He has 802 rushing yards and 13 total touchdowns on the year.
“I’m hopeful,” Lynn said. “He’s one of our better players. I’d like for him to play. We’re trying to win every game we can to get into the playoffs, but if he’s not ready, he’s not going to play.”
Gordon said the short week makes it harder to get on the field Thursday night because he won’t get a full practice to show what he can do.
“I’d love to be out there,” Gordon said. “I know it’s a big game and I know the guys want me to be out there. We need all of the playmakers we can to beat K.C.; you know how explosive there are.
“I just love football, and we’ve only got a few games left before we get to the offseason, then we can do what we want to do.”
Austin Ekeler, Gordon’s backup, suffered a bruised nerve in his neck while attempting to recover an onside kick late in the game against the Bengals. Ekeler also has been diagnosed with a concussion, so he has to go through the league’s concussion protocol and likely will not be cleared in time for Thursday’s game.
If Gordon and Ekeler can’t play, rookie running back Justin Jackson would get his first career start, backed up by another rookie, undrafted free agent Detrez Newsome.
Jackson will have the benefit of getting first-team reps this week, even if they come during a lighter practice on Tuesday.
“It definitely helps, getting some chemistry with the guys,” Jackson said. “Even when I was playing on scout team, I was just working on my game. At this level everyone is working to perfect their craft, and it’s no different for me.”
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said he would work to make sure both Jackson and Newsome are comfortable in what should be a loud environment at Arrowhead Stadium.
“I think they’ll be good,” Rivers said. “It’s just overcommunicating with the noise on pass protection and what route they have, all of those things — more so reminding them and offering peace of mind to take a little bit off of them so they can play fast.”