The frustration is beginning to mount for fans as left tackle Jared Gaither continues to be vague and standoffish when questioned about the nature of his back injury. He was given the nickname “The Big Lazy” during the early portion of his career and now that the Chargers have given him the payday that he was looking for, it seems like that moniker is once again quite fitting.
After he stepped in and protected Philip Rivers’ blindside for the final five games of the season in 2011, fans were excited about the club re-signing him. Some fans that is. Work ethic has always been the number one issue with Gaither and close behind that is his injury history. In earlier career stops with the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs, each time the two sides parted ways on eerily similar terms.
To begin the 2010 season, Gaither was asked to move to right tackle after the Ravens had drafted Michael Oher to play the left side. Playing the right side is usually for a bigger bodied tackle, but Gaither showed up smaller than before (a glorified tight end) and ended up being cut after back problems prematurely ended his year. He landed with the Chiefs after garnering little interest elsewhere and a lack of mental preparedness landed him on waivers where he ultimately found a home with the Bolts.
Needless to say, this is precisely the type of attitude issue that the team was supposedly looking to avoid after deciding not to bring wide receiver Vincent Jackson back. Gaither has a me first attitude that borders on egomaniacal if you look at his comments from a recent interview.
His demeanor when asked about his recovery and just how close he is to returning to the lineup is outright disturbing. Gaither said: "I'm a professional athlete. These things happen. This isn't like something that's not out of the ordinary. People get hurt, and they work to get back."
Certainly no one would dispute that point, but professional athletes get paid to perform on the field and answer questions in interviews. Their job description doesn’t just include the things that take place between the lines either. Gaither reiterated his career choice when asked about work he’s done away from the field saying: "I'm a professional athlete. I think I do well in the film room, and I study and do all those things. That's not really a question."
Gaither has vowed not to return to action until he is one hundred percent healthy and with the vague nature of his injury, it remains to be seen just how his status will be determined. All that the Chargers know for now is that undrafted rookie Michael Harris will be protecting Rivers in the week one tilt with the Oakland Raiders. Harris struggled at times during the preseason, but for the most part, the Bolts like what he brings to the table.
General Manager A.J. Smith is the man responsible for bringing Harris into the organization following the draft and he offered his thoughts on the entire situation. The GM said: "It's a very disappointing situation we have been dealing with the entire training camp. Jared is hurt and not available to us. The clock struck midnight for him after our last preseason game, and we are moving on with Mike Harris. Mike will get the first opportunity to hold down our left tackle position. He is a talented kid with a bunch of ability. He is excited about this opportunity, and we are all excited for him."
It’s hard to be ‘excited’ per say when the team’s biggest free agent signing is lost for an indeterminate amount of time due to injury. Still Harris has loads of potential with the ideal left tackle frame at 6’5” 310lbs. and a great intellect for the game. The organization seems ready to rally around him and fans will be more willing to do the same if he keeps the jersey of number 17 clean against the Raiders fearsome pass rush.
Clearly Gaither’s contract looks like a big waste of cap space at this point in time, but if he can get motivated and get back onto the field, moods could brighten in a hurry. For now, fans need to cross their fingers and hope that Harris can be a suitable stop-gap to keep Rivers upright and get the team in the win column for week one.
Here’s your chance to be heard! What do you think about Gaither being called “The Big Lazy”? Do believe he is really injured or are the Bolts being played? What bothers you more: the fact that Gaither would sit out without a seemingly serious injury or the way he conducted himself in interviews about the subject? Can Michael Harris hold up for the time being at left tackle or are the Bolts in serious trouble? Do you see Gaither ever living up to his hefty contract? Please fill up the comments section below with your take!
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