SAN DIEGO — Two weeks before he was expected to return, All-Pro tight end Kellen Winslow may rejoin the Chargers when they play host Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Winslow had been on track to break the NFL's single-season receiving record when his knee was injured last October against the Raiders. Until Monday, it had not been expected that would be able to play before the season's eighth game. And that was the most optimistic projection. Some doctors who had examined Winslow cautioned that he might have missed the entire season.
"He could play this week," Don Coryell, Charger coach, said Monday. "The decision won't be made until later in the week."
The news came a week after the Chargers put a new face on their defense and added new oomph (running back Gary Anderson) to their offense. Winslow will take part on a full-scale basis in this week's workouts, according to Coryell. Winslow has been running in practice for several weeks.
Trainer Ric McDonald pronounced Winslow fit.
"He's doing great," McDonald said. "His knee is strong, he looks good running and his mood is positive and upbeat."
However, the Chargers, who since have been 2-9 (since 1978) in games they have played withoutDan Fouts, still will be without their All-Pro quarterback for at least two more weeks. Fouts, who suffered a knee injury nine days ago, is still wearing a splint, but is doing well, according to McDonald.
The positive news on Winslow and Fouts underscored what was an unusually bright outlook by Coryell in the wake of a 26-21 loss to Seattle.
Although the Chargers' record slipped to 2-3, the team trails the leaders in the AFC West by only one game. Kansas City, Seattle, Denver and the Raiders each are 3-2.
"Heck, no, we're not attempting a delaying action (until Fouts gets well)," Coryell said in response to a question. "We're still right in the race and we're trying to win every way we know how."
Coryell said he was pleased with the effort of his defense and defensive staff. "It was very obvious that we had a carry-over Sunday from the intensity of last week's practice," Coryell said.
"I was very happy with the way our coaches and our defensive men responded. They did all they could in a limited time frame to fit things together."
He said last week's change in defensive coordinators--out with Tom Bass, in with Dave Adolph--"really shook everything up and will make us a better team."
Coryell also seemed pleased with the performance of backup quarterback Mark Herrmann, who threw three interceptions and made a costly fumble but also passed for 344 yards.
"He did as well as could be expected with his limited exposure to our system and he handled the team well," Coryell said. "He made a couple of bad throws, but interceptions will happen.
"The turnovers were really our downfall. They put the defense in a hole and gave Seattle some points. The fumbled toss (to Anderson) and the fumbled snap from center were inexcusable."
Coryell was disenchanted with the blocking of the offensive line, both in run and pass situations. Part of the lackluster pass blocking was attributable to Herrmann, who required more time to deliver a pass than Fouts, who has perhaps the speediest delivery in the league.
Coryell said the Chargers expected to be able to run more effectively against Seattle. After all, the stable of running backs is the deepest it has been in years, with Anderson, Buford McGee, Lionel James and Tim Spencer available.
Because he expects improved blocking from his current starters, Coryell said there will be no changes this week in the front line of Jim Lachey, Sam Claphan, Dennis McKnight, Ed White and Don Macek.
Coryell wasn't disappointed in the debut of Anderson, who managed just 15 yards on eight carries. "We tried to get the ball to him more," Coryell said.
"I don't think we expected too much from him. If he had a place to run, there were several plays he might have made a long gain. We just have to block better for him. He's going to fit in fine."
Anderson seems to be physically capable of rushing 20 times per game, despite having no training camp, Coryell said.
There was one serious injury at Seattle that could have adverse consequences for the Charger defense. Defensive back Lucious Smith, the designated back and a star on special teams, underwent surgery for a tear of the posterior cruciate ligament and is out for the year.
It hasn't been determined who will replace him, Coryell said.