SAN DIEGO (AP) — Center Nick Hardwick was cleared to work out five days after sustaining a concussion and was a limited participant as the San Diego Chargers practiced for the final time for their divisional-round playoff game at Denver.
Hardwick said he was cleared just before practice started late Friday morning.
“We’ll see how we respond in the next day or two and go from there,” Hardwick said. “It’s always a good step. We’re moving in the right direction but we’ll see how you wake up and how the rest of the day goes.”
Hardwick was hurt in Sunday’s wild-card win at Cincinnati and replaced by Rich Ohrnberger.
He was listed as questionable on the injury report, meaning the Chargers feel he has a 50-50 chance of playing.
“I’m always confident. How could you not be?” Hardwick said.
Hardwick has had concussions before.
“It’s not ever something you want to be dealing with but it’s part of football. This isn’t my first rodeo,” he said. “We’ll see how we go. No guarantees. You never know how things are going to unfold here.
Running back Ryan Mathews didn’t practice all week and also was listed as questionable. He left Sunday’s victory in the third quarter and didn’t return. He’s been bothered by the ankle injury since a victory against Oakland on Dec. 22. Mathews rushed for 144 yards in a victory against Kansas City the next week that helped the Chargers earn the AFC’s final playoff berth.
Mathews was a big reason why the Chargers beat the Broncos in Denver on Dec. 12. He ran 29 times for 127 yards and one touchdown as the Chargers controlled the ball in the 27-20 win.
Mathews said his mindset was the same as earlier in the week, that he wants to play. He said he watched practice and took mental reps.
“I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help my team,” he said of playing through the injury.
“You’re always hopeful they’ll be able to go play and play like they played the last five weeks,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “They know their bodies better than anybody. Until someone goes on the inactive before the game, you hope they’re going to be out there for you.”
Rivers said Mathews has “shown that toughness all year long. Obviously, this injury has lingered on and kind of came on the last few weeks, but he’s been tough for us all year long. As a running back you battle all kind of nicks and bumps and bruises. I’ve been happy for him and us that he didn’t have to deal with a fluke collarbone deal or things that you can’t battle through, and then he gets an ankle. He’s battling through it though.”
In 2012, Mathews broke his right collarbone on his first carry of the exhibition season and then broke his left collarbone in December.
Also listed as questionable were right guard Jeromey Clary (shoulder), right tackle D.J. Fluker (ankle), wide receiver Eddie Royal (toe) and defensive tackle Sean Lissemore. Clary was limited Wednesday and didn’t practice Thursday or Friday. Fluker didn’t practice Wednesday and was limited Thursday and Friday. Royal didn’t practice all week. Lissemore was limited all week.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” Rivers said. “All winning there a month ago does is it allows us to know it can be done. Other than that, that game means nothing. They’re the No. 1 seed for a reason They’ve been the best team in the AFC all year long. We’re going to have to play our best game to go in there and get a win.”