SAN DIEGO — Four months from now, the StubHub Center will officially welcome the Chargers. What that welcome might look like on the field remains unclear.
The Chargers open the 2017 preseason in Los Angeles County, hosting the Seahawks and Saints in Carson before visiting the Rams and 49ers, but local fans itching to see high-level football may decide to wait past August. After all, exhibition play rarely showcases a team’s best players — a reality the players themselves acknowledge.
“I don’t think it’s smart for your starters to play all the games,” running back Melvin Gordon said Monday at Chargers Park.
This is far from a radical statement. The preseason is a chance for veterans to shake off rust — which requires only a handful of snaps — and for rookies to fight for roster spots.
A player like Gordon? New Chargers left tackle Russell Okung has already compared him to Marshawn Lynch, citing his “tenacity as a runner.” The former All-American is coming off 1,416 yards from scrimmage, as well as his first Pro Bowl selection. Gordon sat out three full games with hip and knee injuries, but ranked third in the league with 19.5 carries per game.
For him, every additional preseason snap likely represents more risk than reward.
Take Branden Oliver, for example. Last August, the Chargers’ reserve running back ruptured his Achilles’ tendon during an exhibition contest in Minnesota. Instead of maximizing his value in a contract year, he re-signed with the Chargers last month on a one-year deal.
Some other notable casualties of the 2016 preseason: Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who lost his job to rookie Dak Prescott and has since retired; Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson, who tore his Achilles’ tendon less than six months after signing a two-year contract; and Raiders defensive end Mario Edwards Jr., whose hip injury limited him to two appearances last year.
The Chargers have generally been cautious with Gordon during the summer. Last…