In the last open practice to the public, Eddie Royal left early with a bruised lung.
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The team did not spend too much time working on individual drills, as Coach Mike McCoy had to address pressing team-wide and special teams issues. Dan DePalma had a drop on an out route. DePalma had two receptions for 27 yards against the Chicago Bears.
A large portion of the day was spent in 11-on-11s. The team worked in shells, as the Chargers are only allowed a certain number of full-pads practices under the new CBA agreement. But it didn’t slow the intensity of practice one bit.
Fozzy Whittaker looked strong again today. He had a successful showing in Chicago (nine carries for 33 yards and a TD), which should put him ahead of Edwin Baker and Michael Hill in the roster competition.
The team mixed up the offensive line for today’s practice, using Mike Harris as the starting left tackle. Max Starks and King Dunlap were the second-team tackles on the left and right side, respectively. Starks started against Chicago but allowed a sack that resulted in a lost fumble by Philip Rivers.
Rivers’ deep ball was shaky. He was off target trying to hit Vincent Brown early on, although they connected later in practice. Brown had a good day as he plays as the new No. 1 receiver with Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd out with injuries.
Ryan Mathews continued his success running between the tackles. Mathews can run easy knowing he has the new coaching staff’s trust.
Seyi Ajirotutu was re-signed by the Chargers for a third time. He now wears No. 16 and got limited reps with the third team. Ajirotutu showed signs that he can make an instant impact with this wounded receiving corps.
Kevin Spencer was more vocal today than he has been all camp, and for good reason. He was vicious, yelling out plays and making sure the players waiting on the sidelines were prepared to go in.
The team practiced punt returns sporadically between team drills — aiming to simulate a real game — in addition to holding regular special teams periods.
While Coach Spencer focused on the punt-blocking units, assistant Craig Aukerman was working one-on-one with the jammers.
Keenan Allen got limited reps catching punts today. He muffed a punt return against the Bears.
Eddie Royal Hospitalized
In the second-to-last period, Eddie Royal made an impressive catch in the end zone and landed hard on his back. He appeared shaken, but his teammates pulled him up quickly. Royal went to the sidelines and was looked at by the training staff. On his way to the locker room, he collapsed.
Medics quickly brought out an oxygen tank for him. Coach McCoy, Rivers and several other teammates surrounded him to check in on him.
The team called an ambulance and EMTs placed him on a stretcher and took him to a nearby hospital.
“Eddie went up for a ball, caught the ball and landed on his back,” McCoy said. “He had shortness of breath, so he had a hard time breathing. We’re going to take him to the hospital and check him out.”
Royal has since been diagnosed with a bruised lung and a concussion. He last suffered one with the Denver Broncos in 2011.
Shareece Wright was defending Royal, Floyd, and Alexander when they all got hurt.
The team huddled together in prayer after practice. When Floyd went down earlier this week, it was Royal who gathered the wide receivers together in prayer.
Bird Stepping Up
Bront Bird started in place of Manti Te’o in Chicago and looks to be the primary replacement as long as Te’o sits. Bird had this to say of his new role: “It’s going good. It’s one of those next-guy-up situations, but the coach has to trust you and I’m doing my best to earn that trust right now.”
Bird is the primary play caller with the second unit, but it’s Donald Butler who makes the calls with the first team.
Johnny Patrick is out after getting hurt in Chicago. Te’o is still in a walking boot and could be out for longer than the projected one week.
Chris Gronkowski, who suffered a bone bruise last week, is out of his boot and watched practice from the sidelines.
Floyd was in uniform but without pads. He said his knee is doing much better. He was jogging and catching on the side field early on.
Steve Williams suffered a torn pectoral muscle against Chicago and is done for the year.
Mike Willie, Phillip Dillard, Thomas Keiser, Richard Goodman, and Corey Liuget were also sitting out.
McCoy said Liuget has a shoulder strain. He’s currently listed as day-to-day.
–Bront Bird stuck with Antonio Gates in the back of the end zone and broke up a potential touchdown pass.
–Jarrett Johnson played all of practice in long sleeves and sweat pants despite it being over 80 degrees on the field. And he made a significant impact.
–Robert Meachem had a good catch on a ball from Charlie Whitehurst. He also caught a deep pass in the game on Thursday.
–The first team offense couldn’t score from the 3-yard line.
–Luke Tasker misread a punt, which caused him to drop it.
–The side field had nearly as much talent on it as the main field. This team has to get healthy or find new healthy bodies off the street.