COSTA MESA, Calif. — Once considered a long shot to play Sunday, Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon could face the Miami Dolphins on the road, head coach Anthony Lynn said Friday.
Lynn initially said Gordon, who reported Thursday following a 64-day holdout, would be doubtful for this week.
However, the Chargers ruled Justin Jackson out because of a calf strain Friday, leaving only two healthy running backs, starter Austin Ekeler and Troymaine Pope, on the active roster.
The NFL added Gordon to the league’s two-game exempt list. The Chargers would have to place Gordon on the active roster by 4 p.m. ET Saturday in order for him to be eligible to play Sunday.
The Chargers also could promote running back Detrez Newsome from the practice squad to the active roster.
Lynn said Gordon looked to be in great shape during his two days of practice, but he has reservations about the Wisconsin product playing in pads for the first time and dealing with the mental part of the game.
“We understand that Melvin’s been back for a day and a half, so we have to be careful if he plays, how much he plays and even if he plays at all,” Lynn said.
For his part, Gordon said he’s ready. The Chargers did have a padded practice on Thursday.
“I’m good, man,” Gordon said. “I didn’t really get to gauge myself like I wanted to, but like I said if they call my number [I’m ready]. I’ve been grinding. It’s not like I’ve been sitting around and I’m coming in overweight or anything like that. But it’s not like I get a preseason game to get warmed up. You kind of get in and get right in the fire.”
The Chargers head to Miami short-handed. Along with Jackson, receiver Mike Williams (back), kicker Michael Badgley (right groin), tight end Hunter Henry (knee) and tight end Virgil Green (groin) all have been ruled out for Sunday.
Receiver Travis Benjamin (hip) did not practice Friday and is doubtful for the Dolphins game. Punter Ty Long also will handle kicking duties for a fourth straight game.
Gordon said he decided to return because he missed his teammates, and the holdout had not achieved his objective of securing a new deal.
Gordon wanted a contract extension that would compensate him among the league’s top running backs, like Todd Gurley, David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell, who earn an average of $13 million to $14 million annually.
The NFL Chargers had offered Gordon a new contract that doubled his annual salary at roughly $10 million.
“Nothing came out of it, so I try not to think about it,” Gordon said. “Obviously there is no contract, so it’s obviously something I don’t want to speak on. All I can do is come out here and play ball and kind of let my skill take place and determine my future.”
Gordon said when the NFL Chargers suffered their first loss, against the NFL Detroit Lions, he was surprised that he was upset. And when his team experienced the second straight loss, he felt compelled to return.
Gordon said he hung out with good friends on the team like Mike Pouncey, Melvin Ingram and Keenan Allen during his holdout, along with staying in contact with players like Philip Rivers and Ekeler.
Those close relationships made it easier for Gordon to return. Gordon also said he chose to stay and workout nearby in San Diego because he was familiar with trainer Todd Durkin and still has a place there. It also allowed him to hang out with teammates during their down time.
“They were cool about it,” Gordon said about his teammates. “No one was hating or mad at me. They just said, ‘Do what’s best for you, know that we miss you and we’d be glad to have you back here.'”
Gordon also said the Chargers cut his fines in half. According to the league’s collective bargaining agreement, Gordon can be fined up to $30,000 a day and his nearly $330,000-a-game check for the preseason and regular-season games that he missed. Gordon lost nearly $1 million in base salary from missing the first three games.
“It comes with consequences [of] sitting out,” he said. “To think the fines would be completely washed away, I knew if I got in this situation, it wouldn’t be. You do something against the rules, you pay the consequences, but I think they did what they could to help satisfy me and make me feel better about being out there.”
Gordon believes there were not any bridges burned with the Chargers. They are the team that drafted him, and he kept a good relationship with general manager Tom Telesco during the process.
According to Gordon, Telesco is one of the first people he talked with when he returned on Thursday. So a chance remains Gordon could stay with the team beyond this season.
“Business is business, football is football,” Gordon said. “I’ve had conversations with Tom during this process; we’ve talked a few times. He definitely let it be known that he wanted me back, and that he had no problems and he understood from a player’s perspective. So that made me feel better about everything.”
INDIANAPOLIS — All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard has been ruled out and receiver T.Y. Hilton is doubtful for the Indianapolis Colts’ game against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, coach Frank Reich said Friday.
Leonard, who led the NFL in tackles (163) as a rookie in 2018, hasn’t practiced since he suffered a concussion in the team’s Week 2 victory at the Titans. He will remain out until he passes the NFL’s concussion protocol.
Rookie Bobby Okereke will continue to start at middle linebacker with Anthony Walker, who normally starts in the middle, playing on the outside for the second straight week.
Hilton injured his quadriceps late in the first half against the visiting Atlanta Falcons last weekend. He remained in the game several more plays, catching a 4-yard touchdown, before heading to the locker room in the final seconds of the half and then sitting out the final two quarters.
Hilton did said Friday he’s “ahead of schedule” and that his quad is “feeling better.”
With Hilton doubtful, the Colts elevated receiver Ashton Dulin from the practice squad to the 53-man roster and waived cornerback Ryan Lewis.
Gordon also said he has retained his same agents, Fletcher Smith and Damarius Bilbo.
“I was the reason I didn’t come in,” Gordon said, when asked about his representation. “They wanted me to come in, and I was like, ‘No.’
“During this process, no one got really disrespectful. I think we handled it [OK], we just couldn’t figure things out. But like I said, I think we’ve got more than enough time. It’s not like I hate being a Charger. I love being a Charger. They changed my life, and I’m hoping we can figure something out from this point on, and I don’t have to go to another team.”