Starting running back Ryan Mathews, 25, suffered an injury on his very first carry of the game. It was later revealed that he sustained a broken clavicle (collarbone) and was scheduled to undergo surgery at some point today. His recovery time is 4-6 weeks.
Being as it is August 10, Mathews isn't expected to return until at least September 10 and that is a very optimistic way of looking at San Diego's situation.
The way I see it is that the Chargers will now have a position battle to be Mathews' replacement, for the time being. It appears to be a battle between 30-year old proven veteran Ronnie Brown and the 26-year old unproven and inexperienced Curtis Brinkley.
Brown, entering his first season with the Bolts, is clearly past his prime and was brought in as merely a third-down or an insurance back while Brinkley wasn't expected to make much of a splash at all behind Mathews.
Brinkley has just 32 career attempts between 2010 and 2011 after being signed by the Chargers as an undrafted free agent. But last night he showed he could step in and help out a team in need, showing off his speed on his way to a 42 yard, 1 TD performance on his 11 carries against Pack's defense.
With Mathews out until Week 3 or 4 of this season, the Chargers will need to rely on a combination of Brinkley (1st and 2nd downs) and Ronnie Browns (3rd down) if they want the running game to hold its ground while Mathews recovers.
Given Mathews was supposed to breakout this season after his 1,091 yard, 6 TD in just 13 starts during his sophomore campaign last season, the Chargers will certainly miss him for the first few weeks no matter who steps it up for coach Norv Turner.
Brinkley's senior year at Syracuse was way, way back in 2008 but his NFL career got off to a slow start after he was shot three times during the summer of 2009. Recovery has been gradual, but if last night was any indication then it appears as though Brinkley is completely focused and geared towards his performance on the football field.
With Mathews out, Brinkley (shown above in a 2011 game vs. Kansas City) looks poised to step up and take the reins for a couple of weeks...with a little help and leadership from the veteran Brown, of course.
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