Injured Chargers safety Derwin James aims to get his foot back in door this season
He can’t rock, not the way he did last year, when Derwin James crunched opponents with such deftness and regularity that he became an All-Pro.
But he can roll, James scurrying about the Chargers facility these days using one of those knee-walking scooters to keep weight off his surgically repaired right foot.
Showing the sort of team togetherness the Chargers love to promote, all the members of the secondary returned to the locker room after a morning walk-through Thursday to find scooters waiting for them.
James purchased an electric Bird scooter — trimmed in iconic powder blue and Charger lightning bolts — for each one of his teammates in the defensive backfield.
“I feel like, ‘Man, I gotta be on a scooter,’ ” James joked. “ ‘Why not get everybody a scooter?’ We all can ride together now.”
Given the current state of the Chargers’ health, equipping the players with devices capable of approaching 20 mph could be considered questionable. The original plan actually was to present the scooters during training camp, but then James suffered his stress fracture, pushing things back to this week.
For the first time since he was hurt Aug. 15, James spoke publicly Thursday about the injury and his rehabilitation. He offered no specific timetable for a return but did say the plan remains for him to come back in 2019.
“For sure,” he said. “That’s the goal.”
It will be a combination homecoming game and Mother’s Day celebration for Desmond King when the Chargers play the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.
James was placed on injured reserve last week, meaning he has to miss at least the first eight games. He had surgery Aug. 22 and, at the time, was projected to be sidelined three to four months. At the earliest, that would have him returning around Nov. 22.
The Chargers are off that week and then resume at Denver on Dec. 1. If he is back at the start of December, James would be available for the final five games of the regular season.
“All I know is I gotta keep working,” he said. “However it’s looking … I’m going to play it smart and keep working my butt off like I’m doing every day. I want to be out there bad.”
James was hurt during training camp in a joint practice with the New Orleans Saints.
He said the injury occurred in the middle of the practice but he continued to play. Near the end of the session, James had an interception and raced to one end of the field to celebrate with his teammates, as has become a Chargers tradition. He fired the ball in the air and then posed with other members of the defense as if their photo was being taken.
At the time, James said Thursday, he realized he was hurt, similarly to the injury he suffered at Florida State.
“I kinda knew it when I threw the ball in the air,” he said. “I knew at that moment. I was like, ‘Yeah, it feels like it did in college.’ In the back of my head I knew, but I didn’t want to know.”
James still has been attending team meetings and walk-throughs, attempting to remain mentally engaged to make the transition easier when he is ready to resume playing.
Chargers tight end Hunter Henry, who missed nearly the entire 2018 season with a torn ACL, is out at least a month with tibial plateau fracture in left knee
He said the injury — officially a stress fracture in the fifth metatarsal — was caused over time and something that he had been coping with since college.
“I had to go in there and get it fixed,” James said. “Now it’s fixed and I don’t have to deal with it anymore.”
Just one week into the season, the Chargers already are facing an abundance of missing pieces. Along with James, they are playing without left tackle Russell Okung, who remains out indefinitely after suffering a pulmonary embolism in June.
Running back Melvin Gordon has missed everything since the start of training camp because of a contract dispute.
In a season-opening 30-24 overtime win over Indianapolis, tight end Hunter Henry was lost to a knee injury and cornerback Michael Davis to a hamstring problem. Former starting cornerback Trevor Williams was placed on injured reserve Wednesday because of a quadriceps injury that has lingered for weeks.
Wide receiver Mike Williams missed his second consecutive practice Thursday dealing with a knee injury suffered against the Colts. His status for the Chargers game Sunday in Detroit won’t be known until Friday.
“It’s all over the league,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “From week to week sometimes you never know what roster you’re going to have. As coaches, it’s our job to figure out how to win with the personnel that we have.”
Several other Chargers were limited in practice Thursday including kicker Michael Badgley (groin), defensive end Isaac Rochell (concussion), linebackers Jatavis Brown (ankle) and Denzel Perryman (ankle), wide receiver Geremy Davis (hamstring) and safety Roderic Teamer (hamstring).
And then there’s James, who watched much of that victory over Indianapolis from the roof above the press box at Dignity Health Sports Park.
As a rookie a year ago, he started all 16 games and had 109 tackles and three interceptions, and emerged as one of the league’s most dynamic and versatile defenders.
“It’s been hard watching my team,” James said. “It’s very disappointing. I want to be out there as much as I can, especially with the momentum I had coming into the season. It kinda sucks. It’s part of ball.”
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