Chargers Lose Yet Another Starting Center

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!

December 22, 2009

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Anonymous said... Dec 22, 2009, 9:01:00 AM

I like Hardwick, he's a force when he plays...but that's the caveat "when he plays". I say we cut him loose this summer, keeps Mooch and draft a replacement.

greg from georgia said... Dec 22, 2009, 1:07:00 PM

norv has to be coach of the year for simply getting us to the playoffs with a giant band - aid around our starting line up....

Rob Zepeda said... Dec 22, 2009, 4:49:00 PM

Looks as if Nick Hardwick is going to play on Friday. I would imagine he'd have some rust on him. Still, it's going to be nice to see him suited up and back on the field.

Anonymous said... Dec 22, 2009, 5:00:00 PM

I agree Norv should be Coach of the Year not only for the reason cited but for winning so many games with rookies, veterans, especially from their early troubles, when so many had given up on them. Their team could have lost heart, instead Norv rallied them to believe in themselves and what they could accomplish. The rest speaks of itself.

BigMike24/7 said... Dec 22, 2009, 5:10:00 PM

I agree with you guys, Norv has turned me into a believer. The Chargers will never get the credit they are due. Case in point, Philip Rivers will miss the Pro Bowl yet again. It's a shame but there is nothing we can do about it. A super bowl victory will open eyes around the league.

Anonymous said... Dec 22, 2009, 5:33:00 PM

It's nice to see everyone has finally given up on the "Fire Norv" b.s. that's been happening since he came to San Diego. AJ Smith proves he knows how to hire and Norv Turner has proven he knows how to coach with an injured roster.

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