“Chargers-1st Day-Bad Day-Camp”
We all knew what to expect with the opening day of the Chargers preseason training camp.
There would be no sighting, nor signing, of Melvin Gordon, the holdout running back.
What we did not imagine was the seriousness of the health issues involving starting left tackle Russell Okung.
Gordon took it upon himself last week to announce he would not come to camp without a contract extension and salary upgrade. The holdout is underway.
The Chargers took it upon themselves to spend nearly 6-weeks of silence, before they then announced that Okung was seriously ill. No transparency on something so serious, it could have been addressed in OTA workouts the first week of June, when he was no longer at practice.
Okung finally revealed the scary story of driving himself to an LA hospital with serious chest pains on Saturday night June 1st, in the midst of off season workouts.
He now calls it a life-and-death experience. Blood clots can arise quickly, damage can be serious, if not life threatening.
Okung credits doctors for saving his life that night. They found blood clots near a lung,ones that could have easily broken loose into his blood stream, travelled to his brain, or his heart, and been fatal.
The venerable left tackle, who counts 13M against the NFL salary cap, is out for at least 6-weeks, if not part of the season, if not the rest of his NFL career.
Players have come back form serious illnesses. The latest information was that Patriots linebacker Teddy Busch suffered a stroke in the middle of his career, but recovered and came back and played 6-more seasons.
But this is not a torn knee ligament, a sprained ankle, a torn pectoral muscle. This is not repairable by a typical surgery.
Okung has been a warrior in an injury marred career. Much of his early career was sidetracked by shoulder injuries while with the Seattle Seahawks. When it appeared he was about to become just another journeyman, who succumbed to injury after injury, he got healthy, got lucky, and got to San Diego, where he became the trusted protector of QB-Philip Rivers.
He’s been active to in the Players Association, a strong advocate of the concussion discussions, programs to help players. He is an advocate on the formation of the newly installed Mental Health Committees and the Pain Management Committee, put in place by his Union.
His beliefs include the need to change equipment, helmets, in addition to the rules, and a sense that Medical Marijuana maybe better than the dangers of painkillers.
He may be facing the end of his NFL career. Living on blood thinners is one thing. Trying to play on them is something very different.
No one knows what the future holds for Russell Okung. If it is over, he has been well compensated, and he has gotten out with his health and is alive.
You are shaken by all this news, especially when we are still dealing with the sadness and the mysterious death of Angels young pitcher Tyler Skaggs just two weeks ago. No one knows why, yet.
But Okung knows for sure, his life was saved that Saturday night in June. He has life, and that is really important. The Chargers don’t have their left tackle, and that’s a bad break for them, but that’s the NFL.
Melvin Gordon absent. Russell Okung missing. Not the way the Chargers could have imagined their preseason starting.