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Why Justin Herbert's Finger Injury Won't Affect Him vs. Cowboys

JH

Below are three takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley, quarterback Justin Herbert, safety Derwin James, Jr., running back Austin Ekeler and center Will Clapp following their media availability on Thursday:

Herbert updates finger injury

It's been 11 days since Justin Herbert fractured a finger on his non-throwing hand in a Week 4 win over the Raiders.

The Chargers franchise quarterback said Thursday that the injury is on the mend.

"It gets better every day," Herbert said. "It was nice having the bye week to get our bodies back. But it gets better every day."

Herbert said he plans to play Monday the same way he ended the Week 4 game — with a glove on his left hand that serves as both protection and also helps him get a better grip on the ball.

But Herbert said he doesn't think there will be any adjustments or limitations he has to make against the Cowboys.

"I don't think so. The game two weeks ago, we were able to kind of get back into it," said Herbert, who noted he spent the bye week at the team facility getting treatment on his finger. "Whether I was running the ball or throwing the ball, I felt pretty comfortable out there."

Herbert later added: "There's so much going on during the game that you're not going to be worrying about it too much. You'll be worried about not being tackled or not taking those hits. If it's a scramble, it's about being safe and getting down."

Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said Monday he expects Herbert to be his usual self and that his finger injury isn't nearly as limiting as the quarterback's fractured rib cartilage from 2022.

"He's a player out there and he's going to do what's best for himself," Staley said. "He's going to continue to be aggressive but it's a much different injury than the one he had just year."

Herbert said Monday that he has not taken any snaps under center in practice and might do not so all week in an effort to protect his finger. But he did note that "we've got some under center plays" for Week 6 against Dallas.

Instead, Herbert's main focus is on a Dallas defense that comes to town a Pro Football Focus' team grade in pass rushing at 90.0, tied for the second highest in the league.

"They're about as talented as it gets," Herbert said.

The Bolts quarterback said he'll be especially wary of Micah Parsons, who racked up 26.5 total sacks in his first two seasons and has 4.0 already in 2023.

"He's one of those guys you have to be aware of wherever he is on the field. He's as good as it gets," Herbert said. "Whether he's on the left side, right side, inside, outside or at linebacker, they do a great job of moving him around doing a bunch of different things.

"He's a very talented player who plays incredibly hard so you have to be aware of him," Herbert added.

The Chargers and Cowboys kickoff Monday Night Football from SoFi Stadium at 5:15 p.m. (PT).

Dialed in on Dallas

The Bolts are expecting a big challenge ahead with the Cowboys in their first game coming out the bye.

Not only will it be a big stage under the Monday Night Football lights at SoFi Stadium, but they're welcoming in a team that is motivated and coming off a tough road loss in San Francisco last Sunday.

Despite the Cowboys' result in Week 5 however, Staley mentioned that losses like those happen in the NFL and regardless, the team that awaits them is one that not only has recent success, but also a talented roster.

"I see a team that's won 12 games two years in a row and been deep into the playoffs," Staley said about the Cowboys. "A team that has got some of the best point differential in the league and has had a lot of big wins.

"They had a tough game just like all of us do," Staley added. "But this is a complete team on offense, defense and in the kicking game. It's a team full of premium players who have experience together."

Safety Derwin James, Jr., who is set to make his return against the Cowboys in Week 6, expects Dallas to come in with a little extra this week — and the Bolts are ready to do so as well.

"We have to come out and play," James said. "I'm pretty sure they're going to be pissed off about how they played.

"We know we're going to get their best but they're going to get our best, too," James added.

The Chargers expect to get back running back Austin Ekeler for Monday's matchup, a big boost for the team coming off of the bye week. And Ekeler said that no matter of how the Cowboys feel coming into this week, they're expecting a hard-fought battle.

The main thing for the team this week is making sure they are controlling what they can control.

"We're all playing as hard as we possibly can so for me, I'm not worried about their scenario," Ekeler said. "I'm worried about us coming to show up and play and making sure we're putting a high-level of play on the field.

"Regardless of if they're ticked off or not, I know they're going to play hard," Ekeler added.

Clapp steady in center role

Center Will Clapp was relied upon in a big way in Week 4 — and will continue to do so moving forward.

The veteran center, who is in his second season in the powder blue, started in place of Corey Linsley in the Bolts last game and will start all future games while Linsley remains on the Non-Football Illness List with a non-emergent, heart-related issue.

And Clapp responded in Week 4 with an overall solid performance, as he now looks to continue to improve as the starter moving forward.

"There's always stuff to get better at, but overall thought it was solid," Clapp said about his performance in Week 4. "Obviously, a couple things I'd like to clean up in the run game but always trying to improve."

Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley praised Clapp's characteristics and what he brings now as the center, as his chemistry with quarterback Justin Herbert has allowed him to succeed in his time with the Bolts.

"Really smart," Staley said Thursday about Clapp. "He's got toughness and experience, he was in a good offense in New Orleans. He's played quality football since he's gotten here. He's got really good command of our scheme, works well with others.

"Him and Justin have good chemistry together," Staley added. "He's just been a steady force and played well in the last game."

According to Pro Football Focus, Clapp allowed just one pressure in the Week 4 matchup against the Raiders and didn't give up a sack or quarterback hit.

It's not Clapp's first time stepping in when the Bolts need him, as he started in three games during the 2022 season. He ended up playing offensive snaps in nine of the 18 regular season games a season ago.

It's all about preparation and approaching each game like you're going to play every snap, according to Clapp.

"It's just how you prepare every week, every game week thinking that I could be in at any moment, so you always prepare like you're a start every play," Clapp said. "That way, when I get into this situation my preparation is the same and every week just feels like it normally does."

Herbert says he and the offense have confidence in Clapp moving forward, as he's had the opportunity to listen and learn from Linsley in his two seasons with the unit.

"I thought he did a great job stepping up," Herbert said. "He's a talented player and he's done such a great job the past couple of weeks of learning from Corey and being in his shadow and just understanding everything that goes on with our offense.

"As soon as it was his time, he stepped up big time," Herbert added. "We feel really confident with him under center."

The Chargers and Hoag Cancer Institute partnered to host a breathwork and meditation class for breast cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones. Joined by players Derwin James Jr. and Nick Niemann, the group was welcomed to Hoag Performance Center to enjoy a morning of relaxation and mindfulness leading up to the team's annual Crucial Catch game.

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