SAN DIEGO -- San Diego Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding played in nearly five full games with a fractured lower left leg, including hitting four field goals in Sunday's loss to New England in the AFC championship game.
A person familiar with the situation confirmed the injury to The Associated Press on Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the team hasn't acknowledged the extent of the injury.
Kaeding's left leg is his plant leg.
It is another example of how the team either hid injuries or gave conflicting information in the closing weeks of the season and the playoffs.
Kaeding was hurt helping to make the tackle on the opening kickoff of San Diego's home win over the Denver Broncos on Dec. 24. The team described it as a bruise. While saying the injury could be similiar to the broken fibula sustained by fullback Lorenzo Neal two weeks earlier, the Chargers never used the word "fracture" in describing Kaeding's injury.
Kaeding continued to kick field goals and PATs, but the Chargers signed kickoff specialist Dave Rayner two days before the regular-season finale at Oakland.
Rayner was not active for the AFC championship game, when Kaeding provided all of San Diego's points in the 21-12 loss to the perfect Patriots.
Kaeding couldn't be reached for comment on Friday. Coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith didn't return phone calls seeking comment.
"I don't talk about injuries at all," team trainer James Collins said when reached by phone.
Quarterback Philip Rivers played the AFC championship game with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, an injury he didn't confirm until after the game.
On Monday, Rivers confirmed that he had arthroscopic surgery a week earlier to remove damaged cartilage from the knee, which he injured in a 28-24 upset over the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round. Rivers said having that surgery was the only way he could play in the AFC title game.
Rivers had reconstructive surgery on Wednesday and faces up to six months of rehab.
Early in the second quarter, it was announced in the press box that Tomlinson had a "sore knee" and that he "can return."
Afterward, Tomlinson said: "It's obvious that I couldn't play. If I could have played, I would have been in there."
Asked about the situation on Monday, Turner said: "There was some miscommunication on whatever happens in the heat of the game. But shortly after the first quarter, I was not of the opinion that he would return to the game."
Some fans and TV commentators have questioned Tomlinson's toughness.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press