San Diego Chargers' Biggest Hurdle? Not Their Opponents

Matt StephensCorrespondent IMarch 21, 2008

LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates, Shawne Merriman, Jamal Williams, Phillip Rivers, Marcus McNeil, Nick Hardwick. Twelve Pro Bowl selections over the last two years between these seven players.

Having any of them go down for any period of time would be hard on any team, but the San Diego Chargers face the possibility of have some or all of them unable to participate in mini-camps and some may still be recovering by the time the season starts.  

Of the injuries, Rivers' is the most concerning. After surgery to repair a torn ACL, Rivers is on a timetable that should see him suit up for training camp but rehabbing any of the ligaments is a slow, painful process.

While the injuries to Merriman (arthroscopic knee surgery), Marcus McNeil (arthroscopic shoulder surgery) and Tomlinson (knee) are all expected to heal before the season, they will impact the off-season training that the athletes need.  

The injury to Hardwick also leaves reason for worry among the Chargers training staff. Hardwick is looking at a four-to-six month recovery period after surgery to repair a foot sprain. Hardwick's midseason absence from the offensive line highlighted the importance he plays for the Chargers.

Gates is on pace for recovery, but may miss the opening game. Rehabbing a big toe is not an easy task. Williams still has not had the surgeries he needs on both knees.

On paper, in 2008 the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers are the toughest challenge for the Chargers. In reality, the injury bug may be the toughest to beat.