The third preseason tilt is the closest most teams tread to a regular-season dress rehearsal, but not in San Diego, where Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is among a handful of starters who won't play Friday night against the Minnesota Vikings.
Coach Norv Turner decided to sit Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates after pondering the state of the Chargers' injury-riddled offensive line, which will sit three starters, the North County Times reported. Backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst will be tossed into the ring.
"I'm anxious to watch (Whitehurst) in a starting role," Turner told the team's official site Thursday night. "It's something we may be in the position, during the regular season, that we have to do that, and it's a good experience for him."
Not a new strategy for Turner, who sat Rivers in favor of Billy Volek in 2008 for similar reasons. Gates, meanwhile, finally is healthy and being held out to prevent disaster against a Vikings defense that will play its starters into the third quarter. The Chargers will go without left tackle Jared Gaither (back), left guard Tyronne Green (foot) and center Nick Hardwick (concussion), per the newspaper.
Don't forget about Turner's hazy future here. Many didn't expect him to be on San Diego's sideline after missing the playoffs the past two seasons. After watching wideout Vincent Brown go down with a broken ankle last week, Turner's not about to walk into this campaign minus anyone else of note. At least not his quarterback and star tight end.
Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.