Teammates come to Jackson's defense over calf injury

SAN DIEGO -- San Diego Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson is expected to miss Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders with a strained calf.

Jackson started Sunday night's victory at Indianapolis but limped off the field after two plays, raising eyebrows due to his clash earlier this year with the front office.

Chargers running back Mike Tolbert defended Jackson on Monday, saying the wide receiver got hurt in practice last week and wouldn't have faked an injury in his first game back following a contract dispute.

"I've played with him for two, going on three years now. I mean, he has so much heart that if he could play with it, he would," Tolbert said. "I saw him when he did it in practice a couple of days ago. It didn't look good but he was still out there trying to fight through it. Actually, some of the coaches had to tell him to calm down.

"Luckily we didn't need him yesterday, but there's going to come a point in time when we will and he'll be ready," said Tolbert, who ran for 103 yards and one touchdown in a 36-14 victory highlighted by Peyton Manning's four interceptions.

Agent Neil Schwartz confirmed that Jackson got hurt in practice late last week.

"It's totally absurd that he would fake an injury," Schwartz said.

The Chargers (6-5) didn't list Jackson on their injury report last week.

The Chargers made two players available on Monday. Jackson wasn't one of them.

Like most NFL teams, the Chargers divulge as little information as possible about injuries. They also bar reporters from watching all but the first 15 minutes or so of practice, which involves stretching and individual drills.

Coach Norv Turner, who didn't seem happy that Tolbert mentioned Jackson getting hurt in practice, gave more details on Jackson's injury than he normally would.

"The one that obviously has gotten a lot of attention is Vincent Jackson," Turner said. "I don't normally go into the details of the injuries but he had an MRI this morning. He has a strained calf, there's considerable swelling in his calf, there's a lot of soreness in his calf. I would think it would probably be hard for him to play this week, then after that it would be on a week-to-week basis. Again, we'll see how he recovers. I may be premature in saying it would be hard for him this week, but I want to be realistic so everyone out there speculating on what it is, is also realistic."

Asked about Tolbert's comment on Jackson's injury, Turner said:

"I know there was a period of time Vincent was sore, which is normal from a standpoint of going back and practicing with the offense and going full speed, but I think he had just soreness," Turner said. "Mike's becoming a doctor. I don't think he got the thing on Gates' foot, either. I don't think he has a real expertise and understanding what Gates' injury is, either."

In talking about how Antonio Gates played through pain, Tolbert mentioned that the star tight end has a "torn ligament or something like that in his foot." Gates has a torn plantar fascia in his right foot.

Asked if Jackson's injury in practice was related to what happened Sunday night, Turner said: "Not that I'm aware of, no."

Jackson had a bitter contract dispute with the Chargers that cost him approximately $3 million.

His original five-year contract expired after last season. But because this is an uncapped year, he would have needed six seasons to become an unrestricted free agent.

Unhappy that he didn't get a long-term deal, Jackson refused to sign a $3,268,000, one-year tender as a restricted free agent, and stayed away until Oct. 29. He reported in time to serve a three-game suspension on the roster exempt list -- he was placed there in a hardball move by the front office -- and then be on the active roster for the final six games to accrue a season toward unrestricted free agency.

When Jackson hadn't signed the tender by June 15, the Chargers slashed their offer to 110 percent of his 2009 salary, or $583,000. Due to the games he missed, he'll make less than $300,000 this year.

General manager A.J. Smith didn't return a call seeking comment.

Two years ago, Smith bristled when LaDainian Tomlinson revealed the severity of a groin injury that forced him to miss a playoff loss at Pittsburgh.

A season earlier, the team's shenanigans during the AFC championship game hurt Tomlinson's reputation. Although Tomlinson had been forced out with a sprained knee, the Chargers announced in the press box that the running back had a "sore knee and can return."

Afterward, Turner gave a conflicting assessment. Asked what teammates should think when they played hurt but Tomlinson didn't, the coach replied: "That's the stupidest thing you could ask. The guy was not able to go. The doctors and trainers said he couldn't go."

The Chargers refused to say where the initial overly optimistic prognosis came from.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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