COSTA MESA — Mike Williams didn’t join the Chargers for their practice on Wednesday, sitting out after suffering a back contusion in the second quarter of their loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday, an injury that cast his participation in doubt for Saturday’s wild-card game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Chargers couldn’t say with any degree of certainty whether Williams would be sound enough to play. Coach Brandon Staley said earlier in the week that Williams was day-to-day and that he hoped the standout wide receiver could join his teammates for the Chargers’ first playoff game since the 2018 season.
Naturally, the Chargers have plans to play with him or without him.
“Obviously, he’s such a productive player and a big part of what we do,” Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said. “We’ve had to battle it out without him for a few games this season. We’ll see where he’s at. Josh Palmer does a good job of stepping up when he’s been out. If Mike’s not going, the other guys will step up and we’ll do our best to make it work.”
When their offense has been at its best, Williams and Keenan Allen have formed their customary one-two punch, giving quarterback Justin Herbert two experienced and capable targets from which to choose. The trouble is, Williams and Allen haven’t been healthy at the same time as often as hoped this season.
Or as needed.
Williams sprained his ankle while being tackled after a reception during the Chargers’ loss to the Seattle Seahawks in an Oct. 23 game at SoFi Stadium, sitting out for four of the next five games. He started the final five games, but he was forced from their regular-season finale Sunday.
The Chargers lost Allen in the first half of their season opener against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sept. 11 because of a hamstring injury that sidelined him for the next five games. He’s only played 10 games this season, although he’s been sound for the past eight to end the regular season.
“I’m hoping so,” Allen said when asked if he believed Williams would join him for Saturday’s game against the Jaguars. “If he (plays), I think we know how that picture looks. But if he (can’t), it’s going to be tougher, obviously. We’ll get double-teamed a lot more. You have to count on the other guys to make plays.”
The other guys include Palmer, DeAndre Carter and possibly Michael Bandy.
Left tackle Rashawn Slater returned to the practice field for the first time since rupturing his left biceps during the Chargers’ 38-10 loss to the Jaguars on Sept. 25. He’s not expected to play in the rematch Saturday, and even if the Chargers win and advance, he might not be ready to play.
Jamaree Salyer, a rookie from the University of Georgia, will continue to fill in for Slater, a Pro Bowl selection last season as a rookie. Slater was simply happy to be back on the field among his teammates after so many days, weeks and months spent working to get back before the end of the season.
“It’s been a very smooth thing,” Slater said of his rehabilitation and recovery from an injury that was expected to sideline him for the remainder of the season. “Jamaree came in and has been playing at a very high level, so I feel like we didn’t suffer in that department. It’s definitely a blessing to be back.”
Slater was injured on a routine play that turned out to be anything but routine.
“I felt a pop like I had never felt before, so I knew it was serious,” he said of an innocent play in which he was blocking for Herbert. “They diagnosed it quickly. It was just kind of a freak thing, a play I’ve done a million times. I guess it just hyperextended and the bicep just popped.”
Edge rusher Joey Bosa (groin), cornerback Bryce Callahan (groin) and linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. (neck) were all full participants in practice. Bosa declined to talk to reporters, so it was left up to Chargers defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill to give an update on his conditioning after a 12-week layoff.
“I think the biggest thing was just getting him out there and getting his feet wet, being able to rush with the guys that he’s going to be rushing with this week, getting that comfort level and having the communication,” Hill said of Bosa, who played roughly half of the plays in the final two regular-season games.