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Chargers add three defensive backs to COVID-19 reserve list

Houston Texans wide receiver Nico Collins catches a pass for a touchdown.
Texans wide receiver Nico Collins catches a pass for a touchdown as the Chargers’ Chris Harris Jr. (25) and Nasir Adderley (24) defend. Harris and Adderley were among the players added to the COVID-19 reserve list.
(Justin Rex / Associated Press)
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The Chargers have dropped two games in a row — including at Houston on Sunday, when they were favored by nearly two touchdowns — and have fallen out of position to make the playoffs.

The losing continued Monday when they placed six more players on the COVID-19 reserve list, including defensive backs Chris Harris Jr., Nasir Adderley and Alohi Gilman.

“Everybody in the NFL is going through a really, really challenging circumstance,” coach Brandon Staley said. “We’re trying to figure it out the best we can.”

Harris, Adderley and Gilman joined cornerback Michael Davis, who went on the list after he tested positive shortly before the Chargers’ 41-29 loss to the Texans.

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The Chargers did get three players back from the COVID list later Monday: No. 1 running back Austin Ekeler, cornerback Tevaughn Campbell and defensive lineman Joe Gaziano.

The team now has 19 players out — 15 on the active roster and four on the practice squad — because of the virus.

The 8-7 Chargers are scheduled to play Denver on Sunday at SoFi Stadium in a game they likely must win to remain in contention for the postseason.

“It’s been a challenging year,” Staley said. “I’m proud of the way our coaching staff and our players have stayed connected. But it has been challenging, and we’re still on that quest to find it.”

The Chargers were short players, but so were the Texans and Houston still found a way to dominate the favored road team, which had its playoff prospects seriously damaged.

Harris, Adderley and wide receiver Mike Williams will not be available against the Broncos, Staley said. Williams missed the Chargers’ trip to Houston as well.

Other players who didn’t play Sunday because of COVID included Ekeler as well as fellow starters Joey Bosa, Corey Linsley and Justin Jones. Pro Bowl safety Derwin James Jr. was held out because of a hamstring injury.

The Chargers were heavy favorites against a Texans team also depleted by COVID and sitting near the bottom of the AFC.

After leading into the final minute of the first half, the Chargers collapsed defensively and were unable to keep pace.

“Regardless of the circumstances around here, we’re not going to act like a victim,” Staley said. “When we’re on the field, we need to play to our standard of performance and we didn’t” Sunday.

Twenty-four hours after the loss, Staley said he thought the Chargers lacked the proper “edge” against Houston. They allowed the Texans to score a season high in points, while surrendering 189 rushing yards to the NFL’s worst run offense.

The Chargers pressured rookie quarterback Davis Mills just three times despite Houston missing three offensive line starters. Houston’s biggest weapon, wide receiver Brandin Cooks, also was out.

“It comes down to technique and attitude and playing together and playing with that intensity, that energy that the game requires, that it demands, regardless of who you’re playing,” Staley said. “The NFL demands your full respect. I feel like we just didn’t have enough energy and intensity at the game. That’s why we performed the way we did.”

Chargers defensive back Alohi Gilman runs during a game.
Chargers defensive back Alohi Gilman runs during a game against the New England Patriots on Oct. 31 at SoFi Stadium.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

Among other Chargers who remain on the COVID list are kick returner Andre Roberts and wide receiver Jalen Guyton, who has started two games this season.

Edge rusher Chris Rumph II and defensive back Trey Marshall, both rotational contributors, also remain out.

Outside of Harris, Adderley and Williams, the others could return in time for play against Denver, pending test results and evaluation of symptoms.

“All we can do is address it head-on,” Staley said, “attack it head-on and adapt the best way we know how.”

Entering the week, the Chargers appear particularly thin in the secondary, where eight players — including James and his ailing hamstring — are dealing with uncertainty. James was available Sunday only in an emergency.

Last week, the Chargers practiced with just three edge rushers, including Kenneth Murray Jr., who hadn’t played the position until recent weeks.

In dealing with the turmoil, Staley pointed to his assistant coaches, a group he called “as good as any you’re going to find in the entire world.” He also praised his players for having “the right makeup.”

“It didn’t happen for us,” he said of the loss Sunday. “We get a new week this week against Denver. I know that we’re going to attack it full speed and put a good plan together for these guys.”

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The 7-8 Broncos have lost three of four, including a 17-13 defeat at Las Vegas on Sunday. But they beat the Chargers 28-13 in late November in Denver.

With their playoff fate dangling, Staley insisted the Chargers aren’t concerned about anything beyond Sunday.

“We’re not really worried about anyone else’s circumstances,” Staley said. “We’re just worried about the Los Angeles Chargers. We play the Denver Broncos this week, and that’s where our full focus needs to be. We can’t be worried about what’s happening with anybody else.”

Etc.

Staley called Drue Tranquill day to day because of a lower-leg injury. The linebacker was hurt against Houston and missed the second half. Staley said Tranquill had X-rays that were negative.

The other players added to the COVID list Monday were all reserves: offensive lineman Senio Kelemete, edge rusher Emeke Egbule and defensive lineman Andrew Brown.


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