That was the moment the sunny optimism surrounding the return of Ryan Mathews turned into a storm of negativity.
And even worse for him, this isn’t the first time this year that one event has swung the pendulum so significantly. When Mathews broke his collarbone on his first carry of the preseason, the same howls from Chargers fans were prevalent.
Some of the ugliest opinions call for the Chargers to either trade or cut Mathews. Effective immediately.
It’s too bad.
Not because Ryan Mathews is a good player — which he is. Not because he has oodles and oodles of potential — which he does. And not because he’s important to the offense — which he is.
But because he’s a good guy.
Outside of a late-night car crash, Mathews has never been the subject of a police blotter article. He’s always represented the Chargers organization in the best manner possible, which includes the charity work he does with his mom. And his work on the field has been the same. Aside from coming into a post-lockout camp last year with conditioning issues, his work ethic has never been questioned. He’s never been a guy where there’s some doubt as to whether he’ll put in the hard work.
But most of all, Ryan Mathews cares. Maybe even too much.
“Recalling Ryan Mathews with towel over head, last guy in locker room Sunday. Cares so much,” Kevin Acee of the U-T tweeted. “Teammates I’ve talked to expressed total support.”
Too often football players don’t care as much as the fans do. Too often they’re more in it for the paycheck than anything else. Too often winning and losing, success or failure doesn’t really matter to them.
But Ryan Mathews is of a different breed. One that’s becoming increasingly rare in the NFL.
Thirty one other teams would consider themselves lucky to have a guy like him.
Be careful what you wish for.