The League

Matthew Bonesteel
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Matthew Bonesteel

Washington Post Editor and Football Guru

San Diego at Denver, Week 2

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Now that linebacker Shawne Merriman has stopped getting second and third and 10th opinions about the torn ligaments in his left knee and has decided to have season-ending surgery, the Chargers finally have moved past all those injury distractions and can get right back on track after their last-second loss to the Panthers in Week 1.

Right?

Well, no.

LaDainian Tomlinson, one of only two running backs in NFL history to rush for 1,200 yards in each of their first seven seasons (Eric Dickerson is the other), did not practice on Wednesday with a toe injury he described to the San Diego Union Tribune as "a little different" than the turf toe he had late in 2003. But it's the same toe. He says he'll play Sunday.

Marcus McNeill, the would-be starter at left tackle who's nursing a neck stinger, didn't practice this week and will miss another game. He had started all 32 games of his NFL career entering the season.

Cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who led the NFL with 10 interceptions last season, and tight end Antonio Gates, a four-time Pro Bowler, both have been limited this week by hip bruises.

That's a whole bunch of talent either out or limited, but at least Merriman's backup has shown he can play. As a rookie last season, Jyles Tucker had three sacks and a fumble recovery in the end zone in a December game against Oakland, earning AFC defensive player of the week honors.

All this must come as welcome news to the Broncos, who lost two games to the Chargers last year by a combined 64-6. The second of those losses was an ultimately meaningless 23-3 San Diego win on Christmas Eve, one that came after the Chargers already had clinched the AFC West title. But that didn't stop San Diego from rubbing it in. Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips appeared to wave an AFC West title hat in the direction the Broncos' bench before the game, and quarterback Phillip Rivers (4-0 against Denver in his career) was caught by cameras taunting Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler after Denver turned over the ball on downs late in the game.

Cutler, to his credit, played down Rivers's antics when asked if they bothered him.

"Nah," he told the Denver Post. "He don't play defense. I'm not worried about him."

By Matthew Bonesteel  |  September 12, 2008; 8:00 AM ET  | Category:  Post Gameday Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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