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Chargers live blog: Plan to rest players to avoid injuries seems to be working

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Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert talks with quarterback Chase Daniel during practice.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) talks with quarterback Chase Daniel (7) during practice in Costa Mesa on July 31.
(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

The latest news and updates ahead of the Chargers ' road game against the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday night during Week 3 of the NFL preseason.

Chase Daniel to start at quarterback for Chargers in preseason finale at Seattle

 Chargers quarterback Chase Daniel (7) throws a pass during practice.
Chase Daniel will start at quarterback for the Chargers in the preseason finale at Seattle. Easton Stick will play the second half.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

With backup quarterback being one of the few unsettled roster spots, Chase Daniel is scheduled to start Saturday against the Seahawks.

Staley said the plan is for Daniel to play the first half before Easton Stick takes over for the second.

The Chargers also haven’t selected a placekicker between Michael Badgley and Tristan Vizcaino. Staley said Vizcaino will kick first Saturday night.

“I think that those two have brought the best out in one another,” Staley said of the kickers. “I think Badge’s professionalism, his experience has really rubbed off on Tristan. And I think Tristan has rubbed off on Mike in a positive way too, because he brings something different to the table than Mike does.”

Vizcaino consistently has displayed the stronger leg. Badgley, who has been the Chargers kicker when healthy since midway through the 2018 season, is the more experienced.

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Justin Jackson still sore from injury, but appears close to returning

Chargers running back Justin Jackson works on a drill during practice.
Chargers running back Justin Jackson works on a drill during practice on June 16 in Costa Mesa.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

Justin Jackson has appeared in only 16 games the last two seasons because of injury and again is dealing with a health issue — a sore groin that has kept him out since the Chargers’ preseason opener.

The 2018 seventh-round pick has returned to individual drills in recent days and appears close to returning to practice.

Jackson has averaged nearly five yards per carry on 138 career tries but has been unavailable too often to earn the franchise’s full trust.

Still, Staley spoke highly of Jackson and commended his drive to get back on the field.

“I’ve really liked how he’s responded to that growing setback,” Staley said. “He really has attacked this rehab, from what I understand, better than he ever has. He’s back sooner than he ever has [been before]. To me, that’s a great sign. He’s responded a lot better.

“I know that his spirits are high. I know that he’s an asset for our football team. Before he was injured, he was having an outstanding camp as a runner, a receiver and on special teams.”

Asked specifically about a player’s past injuries, Staley said those do factor into any roster decision. But he also said what has happened since he was hired in January is more significant.

“I think that all I can go by is … how they’ve responded since I’ve been here,” Staley said. “What happened before, I wasn’t here for a lot of that. What’s happened in front of my own two eyes, in front of our eyes as a staff, that’s what we’re going to take most into the evaluation process. And I really like what Justin’s done for us.”

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Chargers’ plan to rest players to avoid injuries appears to be working

Chargers coach Brandon Staley watches practice. His plan to rest players to avoid injuries has been working so far.
Chargers coach Brandon Staley watches practice. His plan to rest players to avoid injuries has been working so far.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Chargers officially wrapped up the camp portion of their preseason and did so — finally — without a limp that was both noticeable and notable.

Nine players on the active roster didn’t practice Thursday, but none of those injuries are thought to be serious.

In each of the last two Augusts, All-Pro safety Derwin James suffered a fractured foot and a meniscus tear, respectively.

The year before, Pro Bowl edge rusher Joey Bosa injured his foot in training camp and didn’t return until mid-November.

With player safety a stated priority, new coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco instituted an offseason program that involved less vigorous on-field work.

They followed that with a camp featuring longer warm-up and cool-down periods and practices that sometimes ran shorter.

Many of the Chargers’ starters have not played in the team’s first two preseason games and won’t play Saturday in Seattle.

“I’m very happy because I know that they’re in a good place,” Staley said of his players. “I know that they’re fully invested in what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. That’s a big component of it — getting your team healthy to the first game and doing the best you can, knowing that it’s impossible to keep your team fully healthy.”

Among the players expected to contribute this season, only cornerback Ryan Smith’s status is in doubt entering the final preseason game. Smith first suffered a core muscle injury and now is on the COVID-19 reserve list.

Two other players — linebacker Damon Lloyd and defensive lineman Chris Okoye — are on injured reserve.

Otherwise, the Chargers are about as healthy as an NFL team can be once practice has started.

“I think what our players know is that everybody here is fully invested in them being as good as they can be,” Staley said. “I think our players are very confident in that. That was a big goal of mine coming here because I’m aware of what it’s been like here in the past.”

The most prominent of the players who didn’t practice Thursday was wide receiver Mike Williams, who has missed extended time because of a hip flexor issue.

Staley said Williams could return to practice next week. The veteran has been doing individual work the past couple days.

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Chargers rookie linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga out Saturday

Rookies work out at Chargers mini-camp at Hoag Performance Center
Rookies work out at Chargers mini-camp at Hoag Performance Center. Long snapper Ryan Langan, 59, linebacker Chris Rumph II, 94, linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga, 57, and running back Larry Rountree III, 35.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

One young player who won’t be on the field Saturday but clearly has made a positive impression is linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga, an undrafted rookie out of Oklahoma State.

He suffered a shoulder injury Sunday against San Francisco and hasn’t practiced this week. Staley said Ogbongbemiga approached him Monday and expressed a desire to play in Seattle.

“I was like, ‘One preseason game’s not gonna make a difference in your evaluation,’ ” Staley said. “ ‘We know how we feel about you. We’ve been able to see you live now for over a month. And we’ve seen you in two preseason games.’ So we have enough of a sample size to make a decision with him. More than anything, it’s making sure he’s safe before he goes out there.”

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An explanation for Trey Pipkins’ struggles vs. 49ers

Chargers offensive tackle Trey Pipkins III blocks against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

While noting that he didn’t want to give Trey Pipkins excuses, Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said the young tackle’s struggles Sunday against San Francisco could have been the result of something bigger than football.

“Trey had a couple reps I’m sure he wished he could have back,” Lombardi said. “I try to give him credit. He just had a baby. So maybe his mind was …”

Pipkins, who is entering his third season, missed a day of practice last week to attend the birth of his child. He returned to play all 67 offensive snaps in a 15-10 preseason loss to the 49ers.

His performance was uneven at best and included some obvious blown assignments. The Chargers’ quarterbacks were sacked five times and the team averaged only 2.4 yards in 22 rushing attempts.

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Veteran QB Chase Daniel is blown away by football IQ of Chargers’ Justin Herbert

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) talks with quarterback Chase Daniel (7) training camp in Costa Mesa on July 31.
(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

Justin Herbert impressed the entire NFL last season with a record-setting rookie performance.

He has continued to impress a much smaller audience so far in 2021 and for reasons not related to anything on the field.

Veteran Chase Daniel said Herbert is “probably one of the smartest young guys I’ve been around … and not only football knowledge, but how to be a good teammate, how to be a franchise quarterback.”

Entering his 13th season, Daniel twice Wednesday noted Herbert’s humility coming off a season full of accomplishments worthy of bragging. He called Herbert “super humble.”

“Him and I have had really good conversations about his progression as a quarterback,” Daniel said. “I’ve told him, ‘Hey, listen, it’s obviously what you do on the field. But it’s so much more than that. It’s how you treat the guys in the locker room. It’s how you interact with the coaches. How you interact with the cooking staff. How you interact with the equipment staff. It’s everything that goes into it.’

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Kenneth Murray Jr. is in middle of Chargers’ plan for dominant defense

Inglewood, CA, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020 Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Kenneth Murray (56) warms up.
Chargers linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. doesn’t take any football game lightly.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Kenneth Murray Jr. appeared in a football game Sunday at SoFi Stadium, one that didn’t count since it’s still the preseason.

Not that Murray viewed the game that way. Or any football game that way.

Two days later, the Chargers linebacker suggested he’d be willing to travel to extreme lengths just to play the sport he loves.

“They could put me on the other side of the world, Antarctica, and give me a football and I’ll be fine,” Murray said.

The Chargers, fortunately for them, won’t venture any farther than the East Coast this season. So Murray will have to be content with visits to more routine places such as Baltimore and Philadelphia.

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Injury updates: Rashawn Slater and Bryan Bulaga return to practice

Chargers offensive tackle Rashawn Slater participates in a drill during minicamp in June.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Left tackle Rashawn Slater (back) and right tackle Bryan Bulaga (hip flexor) returned to Chargers practice Tuesday after missing time last week.

Tight end Donald Parham (tailbone) and edge rusher Emeke Egbule (undisclosed) also returned. Both missed Sunday’s preseason game against the 49ers.

Among the players who didn’t practice Tuesday were wide receivers Mike Williams (hip flexor), KJ Hill Jr. (undisclosed) and Joe Reed (ankle), and running back Justin Jackson (groin).

Wide receiver Jalen Guyton left practice early and didn’t return. He finished the session with his left leg wrapped.

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Rookie Mark Webb showing he can be ‘a quality player’ for Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers safety Mark Webb (29) during an NFL preseason football game against the San Francisco.
Chargers safety Mark Webb follows a play against the San Francisco 49ers at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

Rookie safety Mark Webb made his preseason debut against the 49ers after missing the opener because of a hamstring injury.

A seventh-round pick, Webb played half of the Chargers’ 68 defensive snaps and also appeared for 10 special teams plays. He has displayed promise since his arrival this summer.

“He’s a guy that has shown that he can be a quality player for us,” Staley said. “I feel like that was a really good measuring stick for him against the good team. That was good to see.”

A miscommunication involving Webb did help lead to a San Francisco touchdown late in the first half.

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Chargers starting safety Nasir Adderley activated from COVID-19 reserve list

Chargers safety Nasir Adderley stretches.
Chargers safety Nasir Adderley has been removed from the COVID-19 reserve list.
(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

The Chargers activated starting safety Nasir Adderley from the COVID-19 reserve list Tuesday.

He and cornerback Ryan Smith were placed on the list last week. Smith, who also is dealing with a core muscle injury, remains out.

In other roster moves to get to the NFL-mandated 80-player limit, the Chargers waived long snapper Ryan Langan, wide receiver Austin Proehl, tight end Matt Seybert and offensive tackle Kyle Spalding.

They also waived linebacker Damon Lloyd and defensive lineman Chris Okoye with injury designations.

The NFL’s next roster-cut date is Aug. 31, when teams must get down to 53 players by 1 p.m.

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