Chargers admit mistake trying to protect injured Justin Herbert

Justin Herbert and his fractured rib cartilage absolutely epitomized the NFL’s longstanding label of “questionable” Sunday.

Such was the turbidity surrounding Herbert’s status that—even after the quarterback started against Jacksonville—the uncertainty seeped into the game and affected the Chargers’ play calling.

Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi admitted Thursday he may have been wrong when trying to protect Herbert.

“I probably made it a little darker than it needed to be,” Lombardi said. “I think he was really a game-time decision. Before the game he says, ‘Look, I’m fine. So do not worry.’

“I was probably a little wary at first, wanting to see how things went. I think he was okay. I should have listened and internalized what he was saying and how he was feeling a little bit more.”

The Chargers ran the ball to open two of their first four series, in which Herbert mostly threw quick, short passes.

They started with two three-and-outs followed by back-to-back turnovers – Herbert firing a pass, running back Sony Michel’s hands to intercept it and then fumbling as he was sacked.

In the second series, to keep the Jaguars defensemen away from Herbert, Pro Bowl left tackle Rashawn Slater was called up for only the fourth holding penalty of his career.

The sum of those four possessions: 12 plays, 15 net yards, and a first down.

When Herbert got the ball back for his next series, the Chargers were 13-0 down.

Lombardi was asked if the doubts about Herbert’s health affected the rest of the offence.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “We didn’t play well. There could have been many factors that contributed to this. But that will certainly not be an excuse this week.”

When the Chargers play Houston on Sunday, the expectation is that Herbert’s situation will be more settled, which will remove many of the questions. On Thursday he was listed as a full training participant after being restricted the day before.

Coach Brandon Staley spoke Wednesday about how Herbert’s experience against Jacksonville should help him progress. Lombardi echoed that idea, adding that the experience should help all Chargers.

“Looking at what the quarterback did last week, I think everyone’s a lot calmer because they know how he’s going to react and how he’s going to feel on game day,” Lombardi said. “There was just a lot of uncertainty last week…

“I think he had his brains [made] that he would play. But he didn’t know what that would look like. After going through it, he has more confidence in the whole process.”

After not throwing in practice during the media review portion on Wednesday, Herbert threw on Thursday. That was the same schedule the Chargers used on him a week ago.

Staley said the key will be finding “a rhythm, a new rhythm” with Herbert to balance his training and preparation with trying to prevent his rib injury from getting worse.

“But I think it’s still commonplace,” Staley said, “because we’re just getting started.”


Wide receiver Keenan Allen, who missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, left training with an athletic trainer during the portion that was open to the media. A short time later, the team released its official injury report, which listed Allen as a limited competitor for the second straight day. So it remains unclear why Allen was seen walking off the field. … Staley is scheduled to meet with reporters early Friday afternoon after the Chargers released their next injury report and designations for the game against Houston. Also listed as limited Thursday were two starters, center Corey Linsley (knee) and cornerback JC Jackson (ankle) and backup tight end Donald Parham Jr. (hamstring). Chargers admit mistake trying to protect injured Justin Herbert

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