Chargers hope for a second serving

At first glance, it seems the Chargers hit their bye week at the worst time possible. The team is on a roll, outscoring its first two opponents by 60 points. However, there are three good reasons why this bye week couldn't have come at a better time:

Several players are fighting nagging injuries, Billy Volek is racing to learn the offense, and Cletis Gordon is making a second push to assume the team's kick return responsibilities. A number of key veterans are fighting injuries right now, and the time off should serve all of them well. Keenan McCardell and Kris Dielman are both dealing with hamstring pains, Igor Olshansky is coming off a sprained MCL, and Mike Goff has a hurting groin. And those are just the starters. Leander Jordan is recovering from a stinger suffered during the preseason, Aaron Shea is still sidelined with back pain, and Ryan Krause is still limited by an aching hamstring.

The injured list is a long one, but the bye week should have gone a long ways towards shortening it up. By the time the team faces off against the Baltimore Ravens, Shea should be the only member of the aforementioned list not yet ready to play.

The Chargers also used the week off to try and quicken Billy Volek's ascent up the depth chart. Although the team remains high on Charlie Whitehurst, it makes no sense to risk putting a rookie at the helm of a contending team. With the Ravens and their physical defense on deck, the Chargers need to be concerned about what would happen if Rivers were knocked out of the game.

It is also important for Volek to start earning the trust of his teammates. He left Tennessee with his coaches questioning his work ethic, so it will be important for him to dispel those rumors quickly in San Diego. He spent the weekend studying the playbook at the Murphy Canyon facility while most of the team took the weekend off.

"I am trying to learn this offense and get familiar with the players," Volek admitted. "I think something special is going on here."

The final chore on the bye week to-do list will be seeing if Gordon is ready to assume the kick return chores. It has become clear early on that Eric Parker and Michael Turner will both be major contributors on offense, so it is imperative not to put their health in jeopardy by exposing them on special teams.

Gordon looked impressive returning kicks during the preseason and should be given a chance to do the same when the games count. He is a smooth athlete with the speed and vision necessary to excel with the ball in his hands.

Although it will be tough to play 14 consecutive weeks without a break, the team is certainly appreciating the opportunity to rest right now. If everything goes right during this bye week, the Chargers will have every chance to go out and earn a second one.

"Get ourselves ready for what will be a tough next couple of weeks," head coach Marty Schottenheimer said of coming out of the bye. "The way we are approaching this thing is we are 0-0."


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