Many publications list the San Diego Chargers as the AFC’s second favorite to reach the Super Bowl this season, but all of that optimism assumes that quarterback Philip Rivers is fully recovered from offseason ACL surgery.
Rivers suffered a tear of his right ACL in the Chargers’ AFC divisional upset win at Indianapolis. He then played through that in the close AFC title loss to New England. And while he is reportedly well ahead of schedule, these things generally take almost a full year to fully heal, meaning he could be a bit immobile for much of the season.
The one concern for Chargers fans is that Rivers, despite throwing the exact same number of pass attempts in both his seasons as a starter, had fewer completions, fewer yards, one less touchdown, and six more interceptions in 2007 than he had in 2006.
But he did get better late last season. In the final six games, he had a quarterback rating of over 100 in four of those games. From Week 12 until the AFC Championship Game, Rivers threw for 14 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.
“We were explosive,” coach Norv Turner said. “We were one of the top two or three offenses in the league over that stretch. I expect him to keep building on that.”
Rivers, who is 25-7 in the regular season, took nearly every snap in offseason workouts, so there’s no doubt he will be under center on Week One, although he likely will be handled cautiously through training camp and the exhibition season.
“I’ve certainly come a long way,” Rivers said. “I remember that first week, feeling like ‘This is bad.’ Just the whole thing. The first week or two was really miserable. Just hurting. I can’t sleep. Just getting situated. It hurts to straighten it out. Is it ever going to feel good?"
“It’s amazing now. There are some times when I don’t realize that I ever had anything. Out here, you have a brace and you’re a little bit more conscious of it. But just around the house and stuff, there are times when I can go hours and not even think about.”
Rivers admitted there is a sense of urgency felt around the organization and said there is no reason why the Chargers can’t take the next step forward. He will have receiver Chris Chambers for a full year, a second season under Turner, and, last but not least, still arguably the best back in football in LaDainian Tomlinson (who also is recovering well from injury).
No matter what happens, Rivers is now the unquestioned leader of the team after playing through injury in the AFC title game.
“That he played at all was amazing,” Chambers says. “He really proved a lot.”