Chargers’ WR Williams downgraded to out with back fracture

Mike Williams will miss the Los Angeles Chargers’ AFC wild-card round game against the Jacksonville Jaguars due to a lower back fracture.

The sixth-year wide receiver was downgraded to out on Friday after further rests. The Chargers said the X-ray on Sunday and an MRI on Monday both were negative but a rescan Friday morning showed a small transverse process fracture.

Williams won’t travel with the team and will remain in Los Angeles to continue receiving treatment.

Williams didn’t practice all week after being injured late in the first half of last Sunday’s 31-28 loss at the Denver Broncos. Coach Brandon Staley said earlier in the week he thought Williams would be on the practice field at some point and the injury didn’t appear serious.

Williams’ injury will ratchet up the heat on Staley, who played his starters a significant amount against the Broncos in a regular-season finale with nothing at stake.

The Chargers (10-7) wrapped up the fifth seed when Baltimore lost to Cincinnati earlier in the day.

On Thursday, Staley reiterated he stood behind the decision, as well as saying Williams would travel to Jacksonville.

“It’s very difficult to decide who plays and who doesn’t and who is more valuable than the rest,” he said. “What you are trying to do is set a standard for your program about how you do things. That is what I believe in. I didn’t want anybody to get hurt in that game, regardless of their status, because everybody is important.”

Williams has dealt with back issues throughout his career. He missed the first five games of his rookie season in 2017 because of a back injury.

Williams was sidelined for four games this season because of an ankle injury. He had 63 receptions for 895 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games.

The Chargers are the first team in NFL history to have six players with 500 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns, mainly because of injuries to their wide receiver group.

Keenan Allen missed seven games because of a hamstring injury, while DeAndre Carter was the only wide receiver to play all 17 games. Austin Ekeler set a team record with 107 receptions, the third most in NFL history by a running back in a season.

Joshua Palmer, who is second on the team in receptions (72) and yards (769), will start in place of Williams.

“He is such a productive player and a big part of what we do, but we have had to battle it out without him a few games already this season,” offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said of Williams. “Josh Palmer does a good job of stepping up when he has been out. If Mike is not going, then the other guys will step up. We’ll do our best to make it work.”

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