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Joey Bosa set to play for Chargers vs. Jaguars, but what about Mike Williams?

Los Angeles
Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams before a game on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, in Denver.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)
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The Chargers didn’t have Mike Williams in practice this week, but the team remains hopeful to have him Saturday night in Jacksonville.

The veteran wide receiver was listed as questionable Thursday because of a back contusion suffered last weekend in the Chargers’ regular-season finale in Denver.

Coach Brandon Staley said Williams will travel with the team Friday morning, with the expectation of him working out on the field before the game to see if he can play.

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The Chargers and Jaguars are set to kick off their AFC wild-card matchup at TIAA Bank Field at 5:15 p.m. PST.

“We have a long time between now and the evening on Saturday,” Staley said. “So, just trying to maximize all that rest time for him and give him all the treatment necessary.”

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At the start of the week, Staley said Williams would practice at “some point” in the lead-up to the game. Instead, Williams was held out both Wednesday and Thursday.

Staley explained that the team decided having Williams join his teammates on the field wasn’t as valuable as having him focus on feeling his best, particularly with the Chargers having one fewer day of preparation.

“What changed was trying to get him as much rest as possible because of the short time frame of the week,” Staley said. “We’re at that point of the season where the reps aren’t what matter. The rest is, in his case. “

Trainers assist the Chargers' Mike Williams off the field after the receiver hurt back against  the Denver Broncos.
Trainers assist the Chargers’ Mike Williams off the field after the receiver hurt his back against the Denver Broncos.
(Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)

Williams was injured on a hit after a six-yard reception in the final three minutes of the first half against the Broncos. The Chargers announced that he was questionable to return.

Williams had to be carted to the locker room at halftime and, following the game, needed assistance while walking to the team bus.

In his postgame news conference, Staley was asked — since the Chargers never ruled Williams out — if he could have returned to the game. Staley answered, “possibly.”

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Given that Williams has not practiced since, Staley was asked Thursday to clarify his postgame assessment.

“The nature of it was I didn’t know how serious it was,” he said. “I wasn’t given the indication that anything was significantly wrong with him. That’s what was told to me. What I was intimating is that there wasn’t anything serious in terms of a fracture or some type of X-ray that was positive. That’s all I was inferring at that moment.”

Staley has received criticism for the way the Chargers — particularly in light of the Williams injury — handled playing time against Denver.

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Even though the outcome had no influence on the already settled AFC standings, Staley played most of his starters through at least the end of the third quarter.

Linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. also left the game in the second quarter because of what the team called a stinger. Murray came off the injury report Thursday and will play against Jacksonville.

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Staley was given the opportunity to reconsider the team’s decisions on playing time after a few days to reflect on the events of Sunday.

“I stand behind what we did in that football game,” he said. “All my players are really important to me. There were a lot of players that were playing in that game that were in harm’s way. That’s just the nature of football.

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“It’s very difficult to decide who plays and who doesn’t and who’s more valuable than the rest. What you’re trying to do is set a standard for your program about how you do things. That’s what I believe in. I didn’t want anybody to get hurt in that game, regardless of their status, because everybody’s important.”

The one starter pulled earlier than the rest was edge rusher Joey Bosa, who did not return after playing 23 first-half snaps. Bosa was appearing in just his second game after having core-muscle surgery in late September.

He explained Thursday that he was feeling especially fatigued following a play late in the second quarter. After consulting with his position coach, Giff Smith, Bosa said it was decided he would sit out the rest of the afternoon.

As for Saturday, he said his playing time will depend on how he’s feeling as the game progresses. Bosa said he and Smith will remain in communication throughout to determine the best course.

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“I mean, it is a playoff game, but we want to be smart,” Bosa said. “If I’m good to go, then I’ll be out there. But it’s something that you don’t wanna … because it will feel good until it doesn’t. If it gets too fatigued and there are a few plays that are just really high intensity, you have to watch out and kind of manage it.”

Bosa wasn’t on the Chargers’ injury report last week after he returned from the injured-reserve list. He did appear on the report this week before being removed Thursday following another day as a full practice participant.

Bosa described himself as “feeling good” and sounded optimistic as he prepares for his third career playoff game.

“My wind is getting there,” he said. “My conditioning is getting better. My confidence with my leg is getting better. So, I’m happy where I’m at.”

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