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Chargers to Enter Week 4 Game With Stronger Sense of Justin Herbert's Status as He Plays Through Rib Injury

Justin Herbert's rib injury remains, but he and the team have a better understanding of his in-game capabilities while playing through the pain.

COSTA MESA – Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert played last week's game against the Jaguars with a fractured rib cartilage. He was a game-time decision who ultimately was the driving force behind suiting up and playing Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

In the first full game since Herbert suffered a demoralizing hit to his midsection, the Chargers offense wasn’t nearly as efficient. The offense had just two of their 10 drives result in points with the lone touchdown of the game coming in the middle of the second quarter when Herbert hit Mike Williams for a 15-yard score.

Now having a game in the books with Herbert knowing what it's like to play through this injury – which is expected to be something he's dealing with for some time – Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi says they'll enter the week's ahead with a better sense of Herbert's capabilities.

Lombardi admitted his play-calling was a little over cautious early on in Sunday’s game while trying to protect Herbert. 

“I probably made it a little murkier than it needed to be," Lombardi said. "I think he was truly a game-time decision. Pregame, he was like, ‘Look, I am good. Don’t worry about it.’ I probably was a little cautious at first, wanting to see how it was going. I think he was fine. I should have listened and internalized what he was saying and how he was feeling a little bit more.”

Lombardi indicates he wanted to feel out just how capable Herbert would be as he plays through this pain, and rightfully so. The health of Herbert should be priority No. 1, and at the very least, Lombardi leaned on the side of caution with Herbert's fractured rib cartilage at the front of his mind when dialing up the offense’s operation.

This is a much better outcome than being reckless with your franchise quarterback.

"He didn’t know what it was going to feel like on gameday. I think he had his mind up he was going to play, but he didn’t know what that was going to look like," Lombardi said of Herbert. "I think having gone through it, he has more confidence with what this whole process is going to be like. Just around the whole building is just a different feeling, more certainty this week.”

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In entering Week 4, having seen Herbert guide the offense while dealing with this injury, Lombardi suggests that they should be able to push the pace more offensively when they take the field in Houston.

Herbert was a limited participant on Wednesday and didn’t throw a pass during the portion of practice open to the media. On Thursday, he completed his standard throwing routine and was upgraded to a full participant.

“He’s getting all of the mental reps. When he’s able to take a rep, he takes it," Lombardi said of Herbert's practice workload. "If not, Chase [Daniel] gets in there. It just depends on how he feels. It’s a day-to-day thing.”

The Chargers offense could use a 'get-right' game after last week's showing, and the Texans defense could be on the receiving end of that. Houston has allowed an average of 410 yards of total offense per game across the first three weeks, marking the fourth-worst in the league.

"I think there is a lot more calm among everybody, knowing that how he’s going to respond and how he is going to feel on game day," Lombardi said of Herbert. "It was very uncertain last week."


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Nick Cothrel is the publisher of Charger Report. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickCothrel for more Chargers coverage.