The San Diego Chargers won a physical game against the Cincinnati Bengals, but they did not emerge unscathed. Already without Pro Bowl center Nick Hardwick for most of the year, it would appear as though his backup and interim starter Scott Mruczkowski may be out for the remainder of the season.
Late in the fourth quarter in last Sunday's game, Scott Mruczkowski came up after a play holding his leg. Judging from his reaction, it didn't look like a minor injury. The Chargers were granted an injury timeout with less than one minute left on the clock to attend to their downed center, and it didn't look like he'd be back in the huddle any time soon. Turning to their only other center with NFL experience, Dennis Norman filled in for the Chargers' final two offensive snaps.
The initial prognosis for Scott Mruczkowski was not good. Immediately following Sunday's victory, Norv couldn't responded accurately with Mruczkowski's status, instead choosing to say simply, "We're going to have to rally the troops."
The following day, Coach Turner received a more comprehensive medical report, and the disappointment in his voice did not go unnoticed:
"Scott Mruczkowski has a strained ankle at the minimum, and it could be worse. He's having it looked out and is doing the MRI tests right now, but he would be out [against the Titans]."
Without Mruczkowski, the Chargers will have to dig deep to fill their void. Already with their backs against the wall without Hardwick, it would be a monumental task to ask the third-string center to come in a help the Chargers with a playoff run. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let's take one game at a time. Assuming Nick Hardwick is not available this week, what options are the Bolts left with?
"We have two centers [available] who can play [against the Titans]," says Coach Turner. "Dennis Norman went in and played the last couple plays [against the Bengals] and Tyronne Green has been working at Center, so we can go through until the end of the week.
As troubling as it may seem for Chargers fans, this is indeed the reality we face. If Nick Hardwick does not come back this week, the Chargers will be forced to make a choice between a free agent center and a rookie guard with center experience. While I in no way intend to slight the work both Norman and Green have put in thus far, the fact remains Chargers fans looked forward to this season featuring their All-Pro center.
I've mentioned it before, but the topics deserve to be brought up again: have the San Diego Chargers done enough in terms of drafting or signing talent on the offensive line over the past two years? As much as I like Nick Hardwick, can the Chargers rely on him to remain healthy for a full season, something he has done only once in his career? And if Hardwick does come back, what kind of rust, if any, should be expect him to have?
Leave a comment below with your take, I look forward to reading it!
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