Ryan Mathews had a visible setback this week, seeing a reduced workload in practice on Wednesday. But the San Diego Chargers and Mathews are downplaying the significance, and there is a sign Mathews will be able to play when the Tennessee Titans visit on Sunday.
James Collins, the team's head trainer, was not at practice on Wednesday. He has been overseeing Mathews' progress and the team may have simply taken a cautious route with Collins not being present to evaluate their star running back.
Despite participating in stretching and team drills last week, Mathews was delegated to working along the sidelines on Wednesday.
"It wasn't really me," Mathews said per Michael Gehlken of U-T San Deigo after practice on Wednesday. "James wasn't here today, so I wasn't really able to assess where I'm at. I just had to wait today."
Gehlken also shared head coach Norv Turner's take on the situation. "It's just the plan we have. He worked pretty hard to the side. He just didn't practice. We'll get him out there as soon as we can."
Soon was an understatement. Mathews reportedly was a full participant in practice on Thursday:
Ryan Mathews (clavicle) appears cleared for contact. Practicing in helmet and shoulder pads for first time since Aug. 10 surgery.— Michael Gehlken (@UTgehlken) September 13, 2012
This is certainly a positive sign. It would appear that Mathews was cleared for contact (via U-T San Diego), the last step prior to seeing game action.
The team releases its official injury report on Friday. He will likely be listed as questionable, with the team declaring him a game-day decision.
Starting Mathews on fantasy teams is a risky proposition this weekend. He may be active but the team could plan on limiting his snaps to see how his shoulder responds from clavicle surgery five weeks ago.
The Chargers' opponent on Sunday could make Mathews worth the risk, though.
The Titans defense struggled to stop the New England Patriots through the air and on the ground in Week 1. Steven Ridley averaged 6.0 yards per carry, compiling 125 yards and a touchdown on 21 rushing attempts.
His long on the day was only 17 yards. He was able to gain yardage throughout the game and didn't pick up a large percentage of his total in a single rush.
Ridley rounded out his 20-point day with 27 receiving yards.
The Chargers need Mathews to play. They were only able to pick up 32 rushing yards against the Oakland Raiders. Curtis Brinkley had the most carries for the team but gained just 12 yards on 10 attempts.
Ronnie Brown was expected to pick up some of the slack but he managed just five yards on five carries on Monday night.
We'll keep you apprised of Mathews' status but owners that took a chance on Mathews could start to see the rewards this weekend.