Chargers understand injury plight of Week 6 opponent Steelers
CARSON, Calif. -- On game day, NFL players don't have the luxury of sitting in front of the television for long stretches and taking in what happens with other teams. Their job demands that they focus their energy on the opponent and the game ahead.
For Los Angeles Chargers offensive lineman Dan Feeney, that meant spending Sunday concentrated on the Denver Broncos. Feeney's team fell to the Broncos 20-13, a game in which the Chargers offense couldn't avoid major mistakes and failed to reach the end zone.
"We're frustrated right now obviously because we lost, but you have 24 hours to be pissed off about it and then you go onto the next opponent," Feeney said. "We've got the Steelers next and they have a good defense. I don't think that their record shows how good they are. I think we've got some good opponents coming up. Just got to kick their ass and roll."
Because Feeney didn't observe other NFL games on Sunday, he and his teammates missed the brutal hit that concussed Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph. Feeney didn't learn about Rudolph's condition before being asked about it.
"That's tough," Feeney said after taking a moment to collect his thoughts. "It's a vicious game. That's football. We had one in our game, and obviously the Steelers just had that. It's tough."
The injury Feeney referred to occurred early in the second quarter. Broncos cornerback De'Vante Bausby suffered a scary neck injury when teammate Alexander Johnson collided with him during a routine tackle. Bausby remained on the ground for several minutes while the training staff strapped him to a stretcher and carted him off the field. Though Bausby has regained feeling in his extremities, the injury left an impression on players from both teams.
Unfortunately, the Chargers have dealt with similarly frightening health issues as well. Left tackle Russell Okung hasn't practiced or played since suffering a pulmonary embolism in June. It remains unclear whether Okung will return to the field before the end of the year, though football obviously pales in comparison to the serious health crisis.
And though less serious in nature, the Chargers have also lost numerous important players to injury. All-Pro safety Derwin James will miss at least the first half of the season with a broken foot and fellow defensive back Adrian Phillips landed on injured reserve with a fractured forearm. Tight end Hunter Henry also remains sidelined after fracturing his knee in Los Angeles' season opener.
The Steelers have their own lengthy injury list. Starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered a season-ending elbow injury three weeks ago. That forced Rudolph onto the field, and now the offense might have to come to California next week with undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges starting under center.
Some teams respond better to adversity than others, but all have to deal with it at one point or another during an NFL season. The Chargers haven't performed as well as they hoped minus so many key contributors, but they still espouse the same next-man-up mentality.
"You've got to have people step up," Feeney said. "We've had a couple injuries on this team. It's a task.
"You can't dwell on that. You can't just be mad and say, 'Dang, we don't have Derwin (James) or we could do this.' We could, but that's fairytale land. We've got this team right now. Whoever's up, we've got to make it roll. And whoever's down, we need you on the sideline helping us out."
The Chargers and Steelers will find out which team better adjusts to injury next Sunday.
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH