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Chargers

Several Chargers prepare for possibly their final home game with team

Chargers running back Melvin Gordon (25) rushes past Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Anthony Barr (55) during a first half drive at Dignity Health Sports Park on Sunday.
Chargers running back Melvin Gordon rushes past Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Anthony Barr.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

His quarterback has spent 16 years in the NFL and started each of the last 233 Chargers games.

The last time this team played and Philip Rivers wasn’t the starter, running back Melvin Gordon was 12.

So, when Gordon was struggling recently thinking about how his time with the franchise could be ending, he approached Rivers for some direction.

“It’s just a thought that’s always in the back of your head,” Gordon said. “ ‘Am I going to be here or not?’ You want to be here, but you just don’t know. I asked him how he’s handling it…

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“He said, ‘Whether you’re here or not, you have a couple games left, you can’t let fans or whatever steal your happiness. You gotta come out here and suit up and just have fun with the game.’ That was the best advice someone could have given me in this position. I’ve been trying to take that approach.”

Joey Bosa and Keenan Allen were each named starters for the Pro Bowl, and Chargers teammates Melvin Ingram and Derek Watt were named alternates.

Entering their final game ever at Dignity Health Sports Park — Sunday against Oakland — these Chargers are indeed facing a changing and uncertain future.

Rivers and Gordon are approaching unrestricted free agency, as are Hunter Henry, Michael Schofield, Derek Watt, Adrian Phillips and Damion Square.

Among the Chargers who will be restricted free agents are Austin Ekeler and Michael Davis.

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When the Chargers run onto the field to open the 2020 season at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, some of the faces that will be out there on Sunday surely will be gone.

“I think upstairs they’re trying to keep that on the down low until the season’s over because it’s about to be a frenzy in our locker room,” Ekeler said, “especially on the offensive side with all the contracts that are coming up.

“Everyone’s kind of looking around like, ‘Hey, what do you guys think is going to go on?’ None of us know. We don’t know what they’re going to do upstairs. We know what we want. But that’s a different story.”

After the Chargers lost Sunday at home to Minnesota 39-10, Rivers was asked about his legendary tenure with the franchise possibly running out in two more weeks.

He said he had indeed considered the scenario, an admission that made some national headlines, along with waves on social media.

On Wednesday, Rivers attempted to clarify his remarks, while reemphasizing that he is still focused on what remains of the 2019 season.

“I think I was just acknowledging the obvious,” he said. “I think in anybody’s circumstance you better focus on the present. It’s not like I’m in Year 2 of a six-year contract. That’s all…

“You want to approach every week like it could be your last because you never know. Anything can happen. You never really want to take anything for granted. But you can’t over-dramatize each week based on the ‘what ifs.’ ”

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Along with all the Chargers’ shifting parts, the Raiders on Sunday will play their final game in California as a representative of Oakland. The franchise is moving to Las Vegas.

The Chargers have been hit hard by injuries along the offensive line, and that hasn’t made things easier for quarterback Philip Rivers.

Ekeler passed over

Two Chargers — defensive end Joey Bosa and wide receiver Keenan Allen — were named Pro Bowl starters Tuesday and two others — defensive end Melvin Ingram and fullback Watt — were named alternates.

Ekeler received no recognition despite being ninth in the NFL with 1,392 yards from scrimmage and eighth with 11 touchdowns.

“Sometimes it’s a popularity contest,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “I know what Austin can do and what he’s capable of. And I know what these other backs can do. Yeah, on my list? I had him on my list… If he’s consistent, I’m sure he’ll have his day.”

Ekeler is in his third season after being undrafted out of Western State in Colorado.

He made the Chargers originally as a special-teams player before becoming a bigger part of the offense last year.

He was still a relative unknown leaguewide until emerging as a playmaker and threat out of the backfield this fall. Ekeler leads all running backs in yards receiving (892) and touchdowns (eight).

“Popularity definitely helps,” he said. “I’m still up-and-coming in that category. So I feel that kind of hurt me. There’s a lot more than just playing well that goes into it.”

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As Ekeler discussed the situation Wednesday, Gordon, who was standing nearby shouted, “They snubbed him. I’ll say it.”

Ekeler laughed and explained that he was happy just being able to push the limits of his capabilities this season.

“I felt like I pushed it pretty far but apparently not far enough to get some Pro Bowl votes and sneak me in,” he said. “That’s fine. To me, I still accomplished my goal that I set out to do. That was to increase my role on offense.”

Etc.

Left tackle Russell Okung (groin) did not participate in practice Wednesday and appears unlikely to be ready for Sunday. If he can’t play, either Trey Pipkins or Trent Scott would start.


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