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Readers’ Q&A: Chargers’ Herbert and Rams’ Stafford

Readers ask our NFL football experts questions about the Rams, the Chargers and the league. Rams beat writer Gary Klein, Chargers beat writer Jeff Miller and NFL writer Sam Farmer answer:

Was it foolish for the Chargers to play Justin Herbert after he was injured and in pain when the team was down 10 points with only a few minutes to play?

Steve Karges, San Diego

Miller: I asked coach Brandon Staley specifically about Herbert staying in the game last week despite being in obvious distress. Mostly, I was wondering if the Chargers were at all concerned about Herbert’s ability to protect himself. Staley noted the play on which Herbert could have potentially run for a first down but instead threw the ball away as an example of him, in fact, protecting himself. That he led them to a touchdown and then the Chargers nearly recovered the following onside kick suggests that, even at 10 points, their deficit shouldn’t have been a deterrent in still trying to win.

Klein: With his team down by 10 points with only a few minutes to play, you can be sure that Herbert wanted to play. Maybe even demanded it. Quarterbacks are team leaders. They know that nearly every other player on an NFL team absorbs more physical punishment and plays in more pain than they do. Winning the game is paramount. And for a quarterback, showing teammates you will do everything possible to make that happen is the same.

Can Matthew Stafford throw the deep ball with his elbow injury?

Vernon Atwood, La Palma

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford was slinging the football as usual against the Atlanta Falcons.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Klein: During training camp, Stafford threw passes longer than 50 yards without a problem. He went through an arm maintenance routine before and after workouts and pronounced himself fit and ready for the season. The fact that we haven’t seen deep passes through two games is not an elbow issue. At least not yet. Receiver Van Jefferson, their deep-ball threat last season, is sidelined while coming back from knee surgery. Tutu Atwell, a second-round pick in 2021, was supposed to fill that role this season, but coach Sean McVay has not demonstrated that he trusts Atwell enough to give him those opportunities. The Rams have trumpeted Allen Robinson as a receiver who can be effective at all levels, but they have yet to give him an obvious longer-route opportunity.

If 75% of all kickoffs don’t get returned, then why bother? Why not just move the kickoff spot back 10 yards? Or penalize rather than reward kickers who just kick it through the end zone?

Debra Steinberg, Corona del Mar

Farmer: While that solution would certainly encourage more kick returns, the NFL isn’t looking to do that. Some in the league believe the kickoff should be abolished entirely. That play, while exciting, is also disproportionately responsible for concussions and other significant injuries. According to statistics recently released by the NFL, there are more serious knee injuries on kickoffs and punts than on other offensive or defensive plays. The league says, for instance, that roughly 30% of torn ACLs occur on special teams plays, even though those are about 17% of the plays in a game. So, much as purists might hate it, we are going to see fewer kick returns in the years to come, not more.

As a season-ticket holder for the “Bolts” the last two seasons, I have seen the team finally make tremendous strides in gaining new fans in their new market. SoFi is slowly becoming a true home field for the Chargers. I’m curious to see your thoughts on this, if you guys agree.

Antonio Garcia, Long Beach

Miller: I would not say the Chargers have experienced a true home-field advantage yet at SoFi Stadium. Yes, the fan base is certainly growing, thanks mostly, I believe, to Herbert. This weekend’s game against Jacksonville should feature an obvious pro-Chargers crowd. But any SoFi Stadium advantages so far haven’t been realized.

Klein: My first Chargers regular-season home game will be later this season when they play the Rams. So I’ll be able to provide a better answer then. But I have been in sporting goods and department stores in the Southland. I see a lot of Rams merchandise. Not as much Chargers. Perhaps that’s because the Rams won the Super Bowl — and as the Rams beat writer for the Times, I’m more focused on the Rams. But as we’ve said before, there are a lot of transplants from across the country in the region and they still love the teams they grew up with. Or, in the case of Los Angeles football fans abandoned by the NFL for so long, teams that they adopted. Buffalo Bills fans were the latest to force the Rams to go to a silent count at SoFi Stadium. So for the Rams or Chargers to establish a true home-field advantage is an ongoing challenge.

What happened to Troy Reeder? Did he even play in the Chargers-Raiders opener?

Hugh Terrell, San Diego

Miller: The Chargers signed Reeder largely to be a core special teams player and leader, and that’s what he has been through two games. All 44 snaps he has played as a Charger have come on special teams. Unless there are injuries at inside linebacker, I’d expect his contributions to continue to be limited to special teams.

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