Ryan Mathews returned to practice less than four weeks after breaking his clavicle, according to Scott Bair of the North County Times. Mathews has not been cleared for contact, but there remains a remote chance he plays Monday night in the San Diego Chargers' season opener against the Oakland Raiders.
Mathews has asserted from the beginning that he would return in time to play against Oakland, but it's up to a doctor whether he will be allowed to play. It's understandable that Mathews wants to play, but the doctors and the team need to protect Mathews from himself.
Clavicle injuries can be tricky, and Mathews plays one of the most physically damaging positions in football. If Mathews plays too early, he could break the clavicle again and be lost for a bigger chunk of the regular season.
The Chargers need him.
San Diego plays in Oakland in Week 1, and that means Mathews could get pounded into the hard infield dirt that remains because the Raiders share O.co Coliseum with the Oakland A's.
Not to mention, there are more than a few Raiders who are known to deliver brutal hits.
Rolando McClain once body slammed Danny Amendola and recently hit Jason Witten so hard he had a partially ruptured spleen. Richard Seymour once cold-cocked Ben Roethlisberger, and Philip Wheeler sent one of his own teammates to the hospital during training camp.
Football is just not the type of game where you should return early from a broken clavicle. Mathews and the Chargers need to be smart, and the very fact that he's practicing is an indication that the team might be willing to play him if he gets clearance from the doctors.
Mathew’s chances of playing may be remote, and it could still be weeks before he's cleared for contact, and allowing him to practice is doing nothing more than stealing valuable reps from Ronnie Brown.
Here's a quick trip around the AFC West for other must-reads this morning.
According to Adam Teicher of the Kansas City Star, three defensive starters missed practice on Monday.
Josh Looney of KCChiefs.com looks at running back Nate Eachus and the roster in Kansas City.
Paul Gutierrez of CSN Bay Area reports that center Stefen Wisniewski returned to practice, and wide receivers Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford are getting closer to a return.
Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Rolando McClain is not worried about a possible suspension.
Michael Gehlken from the San Diego Union-Tribune and the San Diego media spoke with injured left tackle Jared Gaither about his injury and rehab.