DECEMBER 11, 7:35pm: Herbert is “very likely” to undergo surgery tomorrow, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The outcome of that operation will determine whether the QB is capable of returning to the field this season.
DECEMBER 11, 1:55pm: Herbert will consult with two hand specialists on Monday, Staley said, via Daniel Popper of The Athletic (subscription required). No firm decision has been made on his 2023 future, though Staley unsurprisingly added Herbert’s long-term health is the main consideration with respect to a recovery timeline.
Herbert has not yet been ruled out for the Chargers’ upcoming Thursday night game, but both Popper and NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo note he is highly unlikely to suit up. With the Chargers’ playoff chances looking very slim at this point, it would come as no surprise if he were to be shut down for the remainder of the season. It will remain worth watching how he and the team proceed, however.
DECEMBER 10: The Chargers have dealt with a good amount of adversity so far this season. With five of their eight losses coming by three points or fewer, wide receivers Mike Williams and Josh Palmer finding their way to injured reserve, and injuries here and there causing absences of stars like Austin Ekeler and Joey Bosa, Los Angeles needed to show some resiliency in order to stay in the playoff race this weekend. Instead, they were dealt yet another injury, this one to perhaps their most important player.
Quarterback Justin Herbert was forced to exit today’s game when he apparently injured his finger. At the time, we didn’t know much as Herbert was ruled out and undressed from his pads but remained on the sideline to watch his backup Easton Stick. Now, it’s been reported that Herbert suffered a fracture to the index finger on his throwing hand, according to Kris Rhim of ESPN.
Head coach Brandon Staley was the one to report the injury, though he did not have any information on a timetable for Herbert’s return to play. Per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the plan is for Herbert to undergo an MRI scan tomorrow on the injured finger in order to determine the severity of the injury. More specifically, Rapoport’s post stated that they will look to determine “how long he’s out and if he’ll be able to return this season,” painting the potential outcome in a fairly negative light.
If the Chargers are forced to play games without Herbert, Stick would likely be the starter moving forward. Since being drafted in the fifth-round back in 2019, Stick had only appeared in one game before today. He played two snaps in Week 6 of the 2020 season, completing his lone attempted pass for four yards. Today, he saw his first extended action. In just over a half of play, Stick completed 13 of 24 pass attempts for 179 yards. He did lead the Chargers down the field on a touchdown drive late in the game by completing two big passes to rookie wide receiver Quentin Johnston before letting Ekeler punch it in from three yards out.
Even if Herbert only requires a short recovery period, the Chargers face a short week with their next game coming on Thursday night in Las Vegas. If Stick earns his first start in the upcoming week, he’ll have to be backed up by practice squad quarterback Max Duggan, the rookie teammate of first-year wide receivers Johnston and Derius Davis. Duggan would need to be called up as a standard gameday elevation or signed to the active roster in order to be on the gameday roster this week.
There’s another question that begs attention: How much time does Herbert need to be out, and how many games do the Chargers need to lose, for the team to shut him down for the season. Los Angeles just committed to making Herbert the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL (outdone shortly after by Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow‘s deal), locking him down with a five-year extension. If the playoffs start to appear out of reach, it may be in the best interest of Herbert and the team to hold him out for the rest of the year. Let him recover with little-to-no strain, and don’t risk doing any sort of permanent damage to your massive investment.
The Chargers don’t have to make that call just yet. They will look at the results of his scans tomorrow and have a much better idea of what the short-term future looks like. While he may need more time than three days and could miss Thursday, there’s still a chance Herbert recovers easily and is back for the last few weeks of the season. Still, with the pessimism displayed in Rapoport’s report, and the season beginning to wind down, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to think that we’ve seen the last of Herbert this year.