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Chargers medical staff member punctured Tyrod Taylor’s lung; Justin Herbert to start

Chargers quarterback Tyrod Taylor runs onto the field before a game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 13.
(Aaron Doster / Associated Press)

Rookie Justin Herbert will make his second career start Sunday for the Chargers as Tyrod Taylor continues to recover from a medical accident.

Taylor was unable to play last weekend after difficulty breathing following a pregame injection that inadvertently punctured his lung. A member of the team’s medical staff erred during a procedure meant to help Taylor manage pain from a preexisting rib injury.

“There [were] complications with the shot,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “… I know it wasn’t intentional. Everyone makes mistakes. Can’t explain it. Just what happened.”

The NFL Players Association has been involved in the situation throughout and is conducting an investigation.

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Taylor, a captain this season, was on the practice field Wednesday with his teammates but not participating in any physical activity. He will remain out indefinitely, the exact timetable for his return depending on the severity of the new injury. A medical source said a typical recovery in such situations takes “weeks not months.”

Lynn, who also worked with Taylor when the two were together in Buffalo, called Taylor an “extremely classy young man” and noted the toughness he displayed in playing with his rib injury during a Week 1 victory in Cincinnati.

Chicago Bears great Gale Sayers died Wednesday at 77, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Lynn also indicated Taylor has been handling this setback with a similarly upright approach.

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“He’s been real professional about it,” Lynn said, “and that’s what we expect from Tyrod.”

Pregame injections are not uncommon in the NFL as a way for players to deal with pain. The procedure administered to Taylor also is a standard practice when the issue involves the ribs. Under normal circumstances, the player is advised of the risks and of alternative options and gives consent to be treated.

“This is a very reasonable procedure,” said Dr. Vernon Williams, the founding director of the Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute. “But, like always, there are risks involved. The relative risk in this sort of procedure is very low. The benefits far outweigh the risks.”

In his 10th NFL season, Taylor is well respected among his teammates. Lynn noted that he received more votes to be a captain than any player has since Lynn became the Chargers head coach in 2017.

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Noting that it “wasn’t his fault he wasn’t on the field [last weekend],” Lynn has repeatedly said Taylor will return as the team’s starting quarterback when he is fully healthy.

That didn’t change after Herbert completed 22 of 33 passes for 311 yards and a touchdown a 23-20 overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the defending Super Bowl champions.

Asked about his unyielding public support of Taylor, Lynn explained that he owed that much to his quarterback specifically, and his team in general.

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“When something like this comes up … it’s different when you go out there and you don’t play well and I take you out,” Lynn said. “Under these circumstances, guys need to know that not just the head coach but every coach on this staff has their back. I think that’s very important to have that trust and credibility with your team.”

This isn’t the first time this organization has had issues with its medical staff. Former longtime team doctor David Chao stepped down in 2013 following a series of controversies. At one point, the NFLPA demanded that Chao be replaced.

Lynn defended the team’s current staff and said the players would determine if potential problems exist.

“Since I’ve been here, our medical staff has been really trustworthy,” Lynn said. “But, how they [the players] respond to this, I don’t know. That’s going to be up to the locker room. As of right now, I like the progress we’ve made with our players and our medical staff.”

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The team lists four team doctors and, as with most NFL teams, has additional personnel on the sidelines.

Tight end Hunter Henry and defensive tackle Linval Joseph both talked to the media via video conference Wednesday and dismissed the notion that the mishap with Taylor could have lasting implications.

Chargers vs. Carolina Panthers.
(Tim Hubbard / Los Angeles Times)

“I still have faith in our medical staff,” Henry said. “Obviously, this is an unfortunate event. … We’re going to continue to move forward.”

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Asked if he’d be more likely to distrust the Chargers doctors, Joseph answered: “Of course not. I don’t think there should be any lost trust. Stuff happens all the time. … I’m just glad Tyrod’s OK.

Taylor suffered his rib injury early in the Chargers’ season opener Sept. 13. He remained sore, but the team was unaware of the extent of the injury until late last week.

On Friday, Taylor made his first appearance on the daily injury report but practiced in full that morning and was removed from the list.

Many are disappointed after a Kentucky grand jury decides not to indict any of the officers for the shooting of Breonna Taylor.

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He warmed up before the game against the Chiefs at SoFi Stadium and appeared ready to go until the Chargers began on offense with Herbert in the huddle.

Taylor came out of the locker room and went to the bench during the team’s first possession but did not stay. He was sent to the hospital to be evaluated and was discharged later that day.

“It’s hard to really talk about,” Joseph said. “But I’ll say this: mistakes happen. It could have been Tyrod. It could have been a regular person. It could have been another athlete. It sucks to hear when things like this happen. But it (does) happen all the time. I’m upset it had to be Tyrod.”

Etc.

The Chargers signed veteran safety Jahleel Addae to their practice squad. Addae, 30, previously played with the team from 2013-18. … Starting defensive tackle Justin Jones (shoulder) was among the Chargers who didn’t practice Wednesday. Henry (ankle), right tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee), safety Rayshawn Jenkins (quadriceps) and defensive back Desmond King (back) were all limited.


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