Chargers linebacker Kenneth Murray was officially placed on the PUP list on Tuesday after players formally reported to camp. It wasn't much of a surprise given that Murray didn't participate in OTAs after having ankle surgery in April.
While it was very likely that Murray wouldn't be a participant early on in camp, a recovery timeline wasn't clear until Brandon Staley's press conference after practice on Wednesday. Staley estimated that there's still about a month until the former first-round pick is ready to get back on the field:
Considering Staley's focus on getting players healthy as well as how cautious his staff has generally been with player injuries, it's more likely that we're looking at six weeks than four. If it is truly six weeks until Murray is allowed to practice again, that means that he would miss the entire training camp and the preseason phase. It would put Murray on pace to start practicing just one week prior to the opening game against the Raiders.
This Kenneth Murray timetable is a huge setback for the Chargers.
After a disappointing 2021 that was plagued by injuries, COVID, and relatively poor play down the stretch, this much missed time in the offseason is a real blow towards the odds of a bounce-back season for Murray. While he's not in a contract year per se, the former Oklahoma standout is headed into the same space teammate Jerry Tillery was in last year-one more season before the Chargers have to make a decision on his fifth-year option.
The ramifications of missing most of the entire offseason program cannot be understated for both Murray and the team. He may not be able to be installed as the starter all that quickly if the Chargers plan on easing him into the season when he does get back. The Chargers' BYE week, when they'd be most likely to fully phase Murray back into an LB1 role, doesn't take place until Week 8 this year.
It's very possible that we're looking at Kyle Van Noy and Drue Tranquill taking full-time snaps at LB1 and LB2 when Murray eventually is phased back in during the first month or so of the season. By itself, that's not a bad thing. Van Noy and Tranquill are both solid linebackers.
But Staley wants to use Van Noy as a chess piece LB/EDGE player and Murray missing valuable offseason (and potentially season) time could take that off the table. With as much draft capital as the Chargers paid for Murray back in 2020, it's also still a shame that there's still this much uncertainty in the linebacker room to show for it.
The Chargers also aren't deep at linebacker. LB3 and LB4 in the absence of Murray would be Troy Reeder and Amen Ogbongbemiga. Reeder is coming off of arguably his worst season with the Rams in pass coverage while Ogbongbemiga is still a rough project at this stage. If any injury happens to Van Noy or Tranquill, the linebacker room has the potential to go south really quickly.
To play devil's advocate, the Chargers have Derwin James and he plays all over the field at the second and third levels. They've also upgraded the defensive line enough with Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson to the point where the linebackers matter a little less. But Murray missing time before a really important season with a thin LB room outside of him just cannot be sold as a positive in any way for the team.
Considering the capital the Chargers have invested in Murray in addition to the strain of the injury timetable on the 2022 LB room, it's particularly suboptimal situation for Los Angeles.