He has four weeks of the regular season to start making up for Sunday, Melvin Gordon’s 2019 debut delayed by a contract dispute.
And he has a lot more than just lost time pushing him as he returns for the Chargers’ game against Denver at Dignity Health Sports Park.
“I’m definitely motivated. No one cared that Melvin Gordon was out. It was all about Zeke, and it ain’t no hate,” Gordon said about Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott and his holdout. “That’s America’s Team. But some players on talk shows ... they [couldn’t] care less to talk about it.
“You got people in your corner, and the next second, they’re hating on you. You got a lot of people hating on you. The best way to do that is go shut them up. I remember everything everybody said.”
Gordon missed the start of the season as the Chargers opened 2-2, including discouraging losses to Detroit and Houston. He admitted when he came back late last week that he was eager to return before the team fell further behind in the standings.
He was active for the Chargers’ victory Sunday in Miami but did not play. He’s expected to split time with Austin Ekeler against the Broncos.
First, though, Gordon wanted to express his frustrations over the lack of support he said he felt from some former NFL players who were critical of his financial expectations and decision to hold out.
“You kinda expect that from fans,” he began. “But you look up and only Deion Sanders and a few other people are in your corner. That kinda sucks. Players, you know what I’m saying? Players that’s been in your position. Players that’s been in the game. And they hate on a player trying to get his?
“That just don’t sit well with me. I feel like if you’re a player, you should know how the game goes. It can be taken away from you at any moment. You should want that player to get whatever he can to help provide for his family. I feel like that feeling should be mutual. I didn’t get that.”
Sanders, a Pro Football Hall of Famer and analyst for the NFL Network, was one of the first people to publicly say Gordon deserved the extension he eventually didn’t receive from the Chargers.
As he sat at home for nine weeks watching the reaction nationally to his situation, Gordon said he was disappointed in how many dissenting voices he heard among other ex-players who now serve as television analysts.
“They become puppets in my eyes,” he said. “They get too caught up in the media ratings and things like that. They may feel a certain way but then they be like, ‘Well, this might not be what viewers want to hear or see.’ Maybe they just want to be annoying, I don’t know.
“It didn’t make sense to me at all. It took Deion Sanders to say something. Much respect to him. For him to come out there and say, ‘Melvin should get this and that.’ A couple people tried to follow behind him … I don’t want to hear that now.”
Gordon held out at the same time as Elliott, the Cowboys’ star running back who is a two-time NFL rushing champion. Their two situations often were compared, with Gordon coming out on the shorter end.
A two-time Pro Bowl selection, he has only one 1,000-yard season (he missed another by three yards) and is coming off a season in which he missed four games because of injury. The Chargers won all four.
Elliott eventually agreed to a six-year, $90-million extension with a $50-million guarantee, the largest ever at the position. He signed in time to play in Dallas’ season opener.
“I watched ‘Undisputed’ every single day. I knew about Zeke’s situation better than I knew about my own situation. That says a lot right there.”
Gordon, who has a base salary of $5.6 million in the fifth and final year of his rookie deal, was seeking an extension with a annual average closer to $13 million. When no agreement was reached, the Chargers broke off negotiations at the start of Week 1.
As the two high-profile running backs remained away from their teams, Gordon was struck by how little people seemed to care about his story.
“I watched ‘Undisputed’ every single day,” he said, “I knew about Zeke’s situation better than I knew about my own situation. That says a lot right there.”
While he held out, Gordon said little publicly, something his coaches and teammates have praised him for in the aftermath. His contract dispute never did become a distraction.
But, at one point, in a video chat on social media, Gordon referenced how well the Chargers played last season, how they made the playoffs and advanced one round, and how it didn’t seem to matter.
“Nobody cared,” he said.
On Friday, he explained what he meant, noting the difficulty in being the NFL team that relocated second to Los Angeles, plays in the smaller stadium and continues to struggle to establish itself.
“I didn’t say that about the fans,” Gordon said. “We went 12-4. A great season. And I pull up at a gas station and I’m looking up at Rams posters. It don’t even say Chargers.
“You got your loyal fans that show us love. We got love. When I said that, I didn’t want to offend no Chargers players. … The real loyal fans show us love regardless of the record, regardless of whatever. They down.”
Asked how the Chargers could change all that, Gordon said he knew of only one way.
“You just gotta win,” he said. “We won, but I feel like the only way for us to change it. … We won 12 games. That’s a lot of games. I don’t care what no one says. That’s a lot of games. So we won, but it wasn’t enough.
“Now, I feel like we gotta win the Super Bowl. It’s Super Bowl or nothing to get the respect. That’s how it is.”
Wide receiver Mike Williams (back) said he expects to play Sunday, though his official status on the Chargers’ injury report Friday was “questionable.”
Linebacker Thomas Davis (groin) and defensive end Melvin Ingram (hamstring) also are questionable, coach Anthony Lynn suggesting both could be game-time decisions.
Tight end Virgil Green (groin) and wide receiver Travis Benjamin (hip) are questionable, as well.
Kicker Michael Badgley (groin), running back Justin Jackson (calf) and safety Nasir Adderley (hamstring) are doubtful.