Bum ankle leaves L.T. limping in a boot, but he's confident he's OK

SAN DIEGO -- LaDainian Tomlinson wore a protective boot on his right ankle Wednesday and limped to the podium for his weekly news conference, but he claimed there's no reason to worry.

"I've had it before," the San Diego Chargers' star running back said. "It's very common. So I'm not too concerned with it."

How much or if Tomlinson plays on that ankle in Sunday's home opener against the Baltimore Ravens remains to be seen. If the Chargers don't want to push it with L.T., they can turn to Darren Sproles and Michael Bennett at running back.

"Nobody wants to be hurt, but I've had some unfortunate things happen," said Tomlinson, who scored a touchdown in San Diego's 24-20 season-opening victory at Oakland on Monday night. "At the same time, I'm still optimistic about this injury."

Tomlinson said there was no comparison between this ailment and the toe and groin injuries that hampered him last season. The groin was serious enough to sideline him for the Chargers' playoff loss at Pittsburgh, the first time in Tomlinson's nine-year NFL career that he missed a game because of an injury.

"I've had ankle sprains throughout my whole life of playing football," he said.

Tomlinson, who had 55 yards on 13 carries Monday night against the Raiders, was hurt while losing a fumble in the first quarter. He played on and off until the fourth quarter, and he wasn't on the field on the winning drive, capped by Sproles' 5-yard touchdown run with 18 seconds to play.

"Obviously the more I played on it and got hit a couple more times, that's when it really started bothering me toward the end of the game," Tomlinson said.

Also missing practice for the Chargers on Wednesday were center Nick Hardwick (ankle), right guard Louis Vasquez (knee), left tackle Marcus McNeill (thumb, ankle), defensive tackle Jamal Williams (elbow), linebacker Antwan Applewhite and defensive end Travis Johnson.

The Chargers signed Dennis Norman, who can play both center and guard. He was waived by Jacksonville on Sept. 8, the same day the Jaguars signed guard Kynan Forney, who had been waived by San Diego.

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Scott Mruczkowski, who replaced Vasquez and then Hardwick on Monday night, said he'll start at center.

Hardwick, a Pro Bowler in 2006, was wearing a boot on his left ankle. He declined comment on his status for Sunday's game.

Defensive end Luis Castillo, who hurt an elbow Monday night, was at practice.

Chargers coach Norv Turner wasn't ready to rule any of the injured players in or out for Sunday.

"Obviously each one of them is a little bit different, but I am confident in most cases," Turner said. "I can answer that a lot better after practice tomorrow. I would expect most of them to participate."

McNeill said he expected to start. He rolled an ankle Monday night but had to stay in the game because the Chargers dressed just seven offensive linemen. He hurt his thumb last week.

"I'm a little beat up, but that's the sport of football," McNeill said.

Asked who was in at left tackle during practice, Turner said: "Well, we just had kind of like in the movies, a stand-in."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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