Melvin Gordon rejoined the Chargers on Tuesday free of the braces he wore on both knees by the end of last season.
But he did report toting one lingering burden. The running back remains unsigned beyond this year.
Gordon is in the final season of the deal he signed with the Chargers after they drafted him 15th overall in 2015. He said his representatives and the team are negotiating and remains hopeful an extension can be reached soon. The Chargers open training game the final week of July.
“I would love to have it done so I don’t have to worry about that,” Gordon said following the first practice of minicamp. “I could just come in and work and do what I need to do. I don’t want any problems or anything like that.”
He is due to make $5.6 million this year, coming off a season in which he rushed 175 times for 885 yards, caught 50 passes for 490 and scored 14 touchdowns. But Gordon did miss four games because of injuries.
His uncertain future arrives at a time when the league-wide status of running backs has been shaken.
Le’Veon Bell, rather than sign a franchise tag worth $14.5 million last summer with Pittsburgh, sat out the season and in March joined the New York Jets as a free agent.
In the past year, Todd Gurley of the Rams and David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals signed lucrative extensions, but both struggled at times last season. Gurley’s health remains a concern.
Gordon said “we’re definitely devalued” when asked about players at his position. But he remains confident in what his presence means to the Chargers.
“I know my value and I know what I bring to the team,” he said. “I’m sticking with that. I can’t help what …Todd’s paid, so Todd don’t care what anybody says right now. Him or David Johnson.
“They can say whatever they want to say. They’ve signed the dotted line. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet. So I gotta take the heat for some of the stuff they’re going through. But I’m not them, man. Like I said, I know my value.”
Though he sounded optimistic Tuesday, Gordon did appear slightly frustrated as questions about a potential extension continued. He mostly dismissed one query about possibly holding out and another about cutting off negotiations, if necessary, once the regular season begins.
“I don’t know, man,” Gordon said. “I’m just trying not to talk about it. If it’s going to happen, it’ll happen.”
A two-time Pro Bowler, Gordon received the honor last year despite the time he missed because of hamstring and knee problems, and his productivity faded late in the season and the playoffs as he battled a knee injury. In two postseason games, Gordon had 26 carries for 55 yards and two receptions for 14 yards. He scored two touchdowns.
“I’ve been grinding to get back right,” he said. “I want to do what I can do to help this team win. I kind of felt later in the year, in the playoffs, I wasn’t my best. That kind of sucked not being at my full potential.”
As has become his routine, Gordon did not participate in the Chargers’ offseason program until this three-day mandatory minicamp. He had been training in Florida while remaining in touch with several teammates.
Gordon said he took a couple months off to allow his battered body to heal. Once he resumed working out, he said he did so without the braces on his knees because he “didn’t want to babysit anything.”
He and edge rusher Melvin Ingram, who also was back on the field at the team’s Costa Mesa facility Tuesday, were the two most prominent players to be absent before this week.
“It feels good … just to be in the locker room, chatting it up with the guys,” Gordon said. “The conversations are the best. I miss the boys, miss the group, the running back group. Hell, I miss coach [Anthony Lynn] too. So it’s good getting back with everybody.”
After this week, the Chargers will break before reconvening in late July for training camp.
By then or shortly thereafter, Gordon would love to have his future beyond 2019 cemented. Though he didn’t rule out a holdout, he suggested he’d prefer to avoid such a move.
“I don’t want to miss football or do any … I don’t have time for none of that, keep going back and forth,” Gordon said. “I’d rather just get it done and out of the way … But that’s not going to stop me from coming out here and doing what I need to do.”