Chargers focus on preparing for opener, not Melvin Gordon’s holdout
The subject is easily the most talked about one surrounding the Chargers.
Except among the Chargers and their coach.
No, Anthony Lynn said, he did not mention Melvin Gordon to his players Monday.
“We’ve been talking about this for a month and a half,” Lynn told reporters after practice. “It’s time to play football.”
Gordon, the team’s two-time Pro Bowl running back, has not reported because of a contract dispute.
His absence has hung over the franchise since late July, when — as promised by his representatives — he failed to show up for the start of training camp.
Gordon, who has one year left on his rookie contract, has since demanded a trade, and the Chargers last week granted his agents permission to seek a deal.
Then, on Sunday, the biggest headline yet arrived when general manager Tom Telesco said the team was suspending negotiations on a possible extension until after the season.
Former Chargers offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger says he wasn’t surprised by Andrew Luck’s decision to retire from football at age 29.
That bit of hardball left Gordon decidedly on the outside as the season opener Sunday against Indianapolis approaches.
The Chargers will face the Colts starting at 1 p.m. in Carson without Gordon, barring a development that would demand an even larger headline.
“Our concern right now is all Indianapolis,” Lynn said. “We’re ready to move on.”
Asked whether the Gordon situation has him frustrated, Lynn added: “I’m focused on the guys that we have here, and they’ve been playing pretty good football. So, no, I’m not frustrated at all.”
Without Gordon, the Chargers figure to start Austin Ekeler and quickly mix in Justin Jackson. Ekeler and Gordon have been a formidable duo, particularly throughout the first half of last season.
Entering his third year, Ekeler’s career high for rushing attempts in a game is 15. He has had five regular-season games in which he reached double digits in carries.
Gordon, in four seasons, has had only five games in which he finished with fewer than 10 rushing attempts.
“I’ve always used those guys as a tandem,” Lynn said of Ekeler and Jackson. “So that’s not going to change. We’re going to put guys in good positions to do what they do best.”
Jackson began 2018, his rookie year, on special teams. Mostly because of injuries, he gradually assumed a greater role and was a key contributor late. He had a career-high 16 carries at Kansas City in Week 15.
The Chargers ranked 15th in the NFL last season with an average of 117.1 rushing yards a game. Between Ekeler and Jackson, they hope to make up what they’re missing in Gordon.
But Lynn said, rather than worry about what his team is lacking, the Chargers will attempt to take what the Colts are offering.
“I’m going to lean toward whatever the defense gives us,” he said. “If they give us run looks, we’re going to run the football. If they give us pass looks, we’re going to pass the football. I think you win differently every single week.”
Indianapolis will be dealing with a significant personnel loss as well. Quarterback Andrew Luck abruptly retired last month, meaning Jacoby Brissett will make his 18th career start Sunday.
Along with Gordon, the Chargers also will be without left tackle Russell Okung (pulmonary embolism) and safety Derwin James (foot) because of ailments that will keep each sidelined for several weeks.
“It sucks,” safety Adrian Phillips said. “You want to start the journey with everybody that you have on your roster. At the same time, it’s football.”
Austin Ekeler made quite an impression on the Chargers during the 2017 preseason, and he’s ready to impress again with Melvin Gordon in a contract holdout.
Phillips, who will replace James, said he considers the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles to be an example the Chargers can use. Among the obstacles that team overcame to win the Super Bowl was the loss of quarterback Carson Wentz.
A year ago, the Chargers were forced to play four games without Gordon because of injuries. They won all four.
“You can’t necessarily worry about that stuff,” Phillips said. “You gotta know what pieces you have, coach them to the best of their abilities, put them in positions to win and just go play.”
Lynn said he liked the way the Chargers moved the ball on the ground in training camp and during the preseason, though he did cite a lack of efficiency. One of his most notable outbursts in practice came during a run-game period.
The Chargers finished the preseason tied for fourth in the NFL with an average of 136.5 rushing yards.
“The running game is normally behind early in camp,” Lynn said. “Toward the end of camp, I was expecting it to pick up more than it did. Hopefully, we’ll get that going Sunday.”
Feeney to start, Lamp to play
Lynn said Dan Feeney will start at left guard Sunday but added that Forrest Lamp “will definitely play.” Feeney was the starter last season and spent much of the preseason playing center with Mike Pouncey being rested.
Lamp, a second-round pick entering his third year, is looking to establish himself after a knee injury that required two surgeries derailed the start of his career.
“With what I’ve been seeing so far out of Forrest,” Lynn said, “I have no problem putting him in a game at anytime.”
Linebacker Jatavis Brown, cornerback Trevor Williams and safety Roderic Teamer weren’t participating during the portion of practice open to the media. The Chargers’ first official injury report of the season will come Wednesday. … Linebacker Curtis Akins was signed to the practice squad. He played collegiately at Memphis and had been with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Go beyond the scoreboard
Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.