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Shoulder injury could make Chargers receiver Mike Williams miss opener

Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams pulls in a practice pass.
Chargers are not sure wide receiver Mike Williams will be ready for the season opener against Cincinnati on Sept. 13.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

The status of Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams for the start of the season is in doubt because of a shoulder injury suffered Sunday.

Williams went down trying to make a diving catch in a period after the players had removed their shoulder pads in an attempt to scale back the intensity.

He attended practice Monday in street clothes and wasn’t wearing a sling.

Coach Anthony Lynn’s next scheduled session with the media is Tuesday. The team has made no announcement regarding Williams, the NFL Network reporting that he suffered a sprain.

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The loss of Williams would be a significant one for the Chargers, who open Sept. 13 at Cincinnati. He is coming off his first career 1,000-yard season and led the NFL with an average of 20.4 yards per catch on his 49 receptions.

The team’s No. 1 wideout is three-time Pro Bowl selection Keenan Allen, who has topped 1,000 yards in each of the past three years.

Chargers veteran offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga says Sam Tevi’s move to left tackle is a little more complicated than Tevi would have you believe.

After Allen and Williams, the experience at the position drops dramatically. The remaining receivers on the roster have a total of 29 career catches and 27 of those belong to Darius Jennings.

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A free-agent addition in the offseason, Jennings was signed because of his speed and ability as a kickoff returner.

“That’s part of the job,” Jennings said. “My position isn’t kick returner. I’m a receiver first. Kick returner is just one of my abilities.”

His most productive season as a receiver came with Cleveland in 2015 when he caught 14 passes for 117 yards. Jennings, 28, spent the past two years with Tennessee. He led the NFL in kick returns in 2018, averaging 31.7 yards. He also ran back a kick for a touchdown that season.

“I’m a speed guy,” said Jennings, who is 5 foot 10, 180 pounds. “I’m hitting the crease downhill. But I feel like I also have good vision. I can see the return setting up and hit it with blind faith, trusting the other 10 guys in front of me.”

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The only other receiver on the Chargers’ roster with an NFL catch is Jason Moore, who had two receptions for 43 yards in 2019. Moore appeared in 10 games last season with most of his experience coming on special teams.

In practice Monday —- with Allen getting the day off — Jennings and Jalen Guyton took the most snaps with the first-team offense. Guyton is in his second year after playing in three games last season.

Chargers rookie receiver Joe Reed runs with the ball in practice.
With starters missing practice, Chargers rookie receiver Joe Reed is getting more repetitions in camp.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Tyron Johnson, a practice squad player in 2019, also spent time with the first team. Johnson and Guyton are among the candidates to return punts.

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The Chargers took two wide receivers in the draft in April, Virginia’s Joe Reed in the fifth round and Ohio State’s K.J. Hill in the seventh. Both have been getting increased opportunities in practice, with Reed also working with the running backs.

Hill is an option on punt returns and Reed on kickoff returns.

Desmond King handled most of the punt returning the past two seasons but struggled in that role in 2019. He has not been returning punts in practice.

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The Chargers’ main kickoff returner last season, Troymaine Pope, is no longer with the team.

Murray in action

Rookie linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. continues to increase his activity in practice after missing time because of an unspecified physical issue. He was the 23rd pick in April.

At 6-2, 241 pounds, Murray has one of the Chargers’ more impressive physiques. Fellow linebacker Drue Tranquill said Murray could be a bodybuilder, calling his legs “redwood trees.”

Prize rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, the sixth pick of the NFL draft, continued to be challenged Friday when he was matched up against the starting defense.

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At a recent walk-through, Tranquill explained that Murray looked flatly imposing.

“He’s got these short shorts on,” Tranquill said. “I don’t know if they’re short shorts because he got short shorts or because his legs are so massive.”

Etc.

Center Mike Pouncey is expected to rejoin the Chargers perhaps as early as Tuesday. He has been away from the team because of a personal matter. … Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. missed practice again because of unspecified leg injury. … Jennings on the most difficult part of training camp so far: “Trying to learn people’s faces by just seeing [them from] their nose up. It’s kind of hard when you got a mask on 75% of the time.”


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