In his first carry of the 2012 preseason, San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews suffered a broken clavicle that will keep him out four to six weeks. However, that same injury will have a lasting impact all season long.
For starters, Mathews was expected to shoulder a hefty load on offense, and his absence changes San Diego's game plan. Depending upon how long it will take for him to recover, Mathews could miss the first few games of the regular season, placing the responsibilities of the running game on Ronnie Brown, Jackie Battle and Curtis Brinkley.
Brown and Battle are both experienced veterans, but it's highly doubtful that either guy can carry the load for a full season. If anything, all three guys could be used in a rotation splitting the carries. But, there's no way they could manage to run the ball and produce like Mathews would in a feature back role.
The potential games Mathews would miss are: at the Oakland Raiders, at home against the Tennessee Titans and at home against the Atlanta Falcons. Two of which are vital matchups against AFC opponents.
The other concern about Mathews' injury is the fact that this isn't the 24-year-old's first run in with the injury bug. In fact, he's had quite the history of injuries since he entered the league. On top of that, Mathews nearly suffered major injuries when he was involved in a two-car wreck in late July.
Personally, I think Mathews has all the makings of a future All-Pro RB, but his injury-prone history has me really worried that his career won't even make it to the age of 30. Even when he does come back from this clavicle injury, it's going to be a scary thing to watch him hit the hole and take hits from opposing tacklers.
Mathews' injury reminded me a lot about the same collarbone injury that Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo suffered back in 2010. Romo's injury required six to eight weeks to heal.
Keep in mind that Romo is a QB who's protected by five huge offensive linemen, while Mathews is a RB who runs full speed into big collisions on a regular basis. If Mathews lands the wrong way or gets hit high, that clavicle could be easily re-injured.
Everything may seem OK for now, but Mathews' injury is definitely something to keep a close eye on as the season progresses.