Melvin Gordon waited a long time for Saturday night. To be precise, he waited 237 days for his next NFL game after suffering a knee injury last December vs. the Miami Dolphins.
While it was only one preseason drive, it's hard to imagine the second-year running back could have drawn his play up any better.
Number 28 ran the rock three times for 12 yards, averaging 4.0 yards per carry as he looked confident and assertive. To top it all off, after failing to record a touchdown during last year's rookie campaign, he took a short pass from Philip Rivers, darted 44-yards up the right sideline and forced his way over a defender into the end zone.
"It was good," Rivers said of Gordon's play. "He ran hard and finished runs falling forward. Seeing him get in the end zone; it's been a long time coming. It's not one that will count in the books but it'll be one that will count for him. Hopefully that will give him some more confidence and he can build on that getting in the end zone in the regular season."
To his credit, Gordon took his debut in stride. While he was happy with his performance, he recognizes it was only a preseason game. His focus is on building toward being even better when the regular season kicks off.
"I was just way more comfortable," he said. "I kind of just told myself last year that I was really just stressing over every little thing with the run. I calmed myself down, was focused on my reads, trusted (the line) and tried to make the best of what I can do. (Confidence) can help a lot. I won't get carried away because obviously it is the preseason and the first game. But I am excited to see what we can do."
Even though he downplayed his success after the game, Gordon's celebration moments after scoring showed how much that moment meant to him. It was the culmination of a long offseason spent under the microscope following months of arduous rehab.
"You never know what you're going to do. There was so much emotion when you're grinding in camp and the offseason. Then when you make a play for your team and get points on the board, that's when (the emotion) all comes out. Everyone gets to see it a little bit. I was ecstatic about it and a lot of energy came out with it."
Count Head Coach Mike McCoy among those pleased with Gordon's performance. McCoy challenged the entire team to do a better job setting up the running back for success, and they did just that on the first drive.
"(Gordon's) on a mission and he's worked a certain way," he said. "He's trying to get better his second year and learned a lot as a rookie last year. He'll tell you he wished he did better. But it's 11 guys doing their job. I think early on (when) he ran the ball (he) put his foot in the ground and he was decisive. He's going to get better with time, but I'm really happy for him and the big reception he had. Give a lot of credit to the receiver blocking downfield to let him score (plus his) finishing. I'm very pleased all camp long with the progress he's made from year one to year two. He's learned a lot of things and he's worked extremely hard."