Chargers limit Justin Herbert’s practice, injury update, but pain is inevitable

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert continued to throw in the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs despite his rib cartilage injury. (Ed Zurga / Associated Press)

Justin Herbert’s final pass Thursday was a seven-yard touchdown strike to Joshua Palmer.

That remained his most recent throw witnessed by any team outsiders Wednesday after the portion of Chargers practice open to the media.

Herbert did some stretching and warming up but otherwise limited his participation to handoffs as he deals with fractured rib cartilage suffered Thursday against Kansas City.

Only the first 20 minutes or so of practice was available for media-viewing.

Coach Brandon Staley said Herbert did some “light throwing” and “rotational work” Tuesday at the team’s training facility. Staley continued to call Herbert “day to day” with the Chargers set to play Jacksonville on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

“[We’re] just making sure that Justin feels like he can go do the job the way that you know he can do it,” Staley said. “That’s the big thing, just him having confidence to be able to go play the game the way it needs to be played.

“It’s going to be determined as the week goes, up until the game, because when I say it’s ‘day to day,’ it’s just how he’s feeling. That could go all the way up until Sunday.”

Beyond protecting Herbert from further injury, the biggest factor in determining his status will be Herbert’s ability to manage the pain.

On the series after getting hurt, he led the Chargers on a nine-play, 73-yard scoring drive. Herbert was in clear discomfort over the game’s final five minutes but missed only one play.

Staley said the Chargers will rely heavily on Herbert in making a final determination regarding his availability for Sunday.

“We’re going to listen to Justin, No. 1,” Staley said. “The player’s at the front of all the decisions that we make here since I’ve become the head coach. … I think that that’s where the modern NFL is …

“We’re gonna start with him and then him feeling good about what the medical team feels like is best, him weighing the options and then us making a good decision.”

No matter what happens this weekend, Herbert likely will be dealing with soreness in the area of his left rib cage for some time.

Ilan Danan, a sports neurologist and pain management specialist at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute, said full recovery — based on the severity of the injury — could take two weeks to two months.

“The focus and the recovery period,” Danan explained, “really comes down to the degree of the pain and how much one can tolerate.”

Chargers quarterbacks Justin Herbert (10) and Chase Daniel (7) work on drills.

If Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) is unable to play because of his injury, Chase Daniels (7) will start in his place Sunday against Jacksonville. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

If Herbert is unable to play against the Jaguars, Chase Daniel and Easton Stick would be the Chargers’ two quarterbacks. Daniel has been Herbert’s backup since the start of last season.

In his 13th year, Daniel has five career starts, his most recent coming in 2019 with Chicago. Stick has appeared in only one game — for two snaps —since the Chargers drafted him in the fifth round in 2019.

Since the start of the 2006 season, the Chargers have had only three players start at quarterback and one of them — Tyrod Taylor — started just one game.

The uncertainty about Herbert comes the same week a medical malpractice lawsuit against one of the Chargers team doctors filed by Taylor became public knowledge.

David Gazzaniga is being sued by Taylor because a pregame injection — meant to help the quarterback manage the pain from two fractured ribs — instead resulted in Taylor suffering a punctured lung.

When Taylor was unable to play in that game in Week 2 of the 2020 season, Herbert replaced him minutes before kickoff and has been the Chargers’ starter since.

Asked if he had any “trepidation” about Herbert’s treatment in light of the lawsuit, Staley said, “Any player that goes through something like this … that’s your biggest responsibility as a coach is to take care of your players.

“I think we have full alignment with Justin, his family, his agents and then the medical professionals. That’s what we’re going to try and do is have alignment that way and just trust the process and, hopefully, get him well soon.”

The Chargers listed Herbert as a limited practice participant and he was not alone as they deal with a handful of significant injuries.

Two Pro Bowlers — center Corey Linsley (knee) and cornerback J.C. Jackson (ankle) — did not practice Wednesday. Linsley missed the second half against the Chiefs. Jackson made his season debut in Kansas City after sitting out the Chargers’ opener.

Pro Bowl wide receiver Keenan Allen (hamstring) and starting right tackle Trey Pipkins III (ankle) were designated as limited in practice. Allen was hurt in Week 1 and Pipkins in the third quarter Thursday.

Backup tight end Donald Parham Jr. (hamstring) also was limited. He has yet to play this season.

Pick on Brandon Staley

Saying “I’m responsible for what happened on that play,” Staley took the blame for the fourth-quarter Herbert interception that became a 99-yard Kansas City touchdown Thursday.

Gerald Everett was Herbert’s intended target near the goal line with the Chargers looking to break a 17-17 tie. But the veteran tight end, who was seen trying to take himself out of the game moments earlier, didn’t make a move for the ball.

Everett explained afterward that he was trying to get off the field because he was feeling soreness in his ankle from an injury suffered in the Chargers’ opener. But with the offense going up-tempo, Everett was unable to exit.

He had caught passes on the previous two plays as the Chargers moved to the Chiefs’ three-yard line before Jaylen Watson picked off Herbert and ran 99 yards for the game-swinging score.

“I saw Gerald,” Staley said. “We felt like we could keep him in and dictate the pace. It was kind of a simple play, a simple job responsibility. In retrospect, certainly, it’s one, as a coach, that I’ll learn from. Operationally, we take full ownership. I think that all of us can learn from that, but me most of all.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.