SAN DIEGO — The Chargers were relieved to hear that running back Lionel (Little Train) James will be sidelined only one to three weeks and will not need surgery for the knee injury he suffered in Monday's practice.
Team physician Dr. Gary Losse examined James Tuesday morning and reported that the versatile back, who led the team in rushing, receiving and kick-return yardage last year, had sustained only a sprained knee.
James played much of the 1985 season with cartilage damage in the right knee, the same one he injured this week. He underwent arthroscopic surgery at the end of last season, and the knee was back to normal until the latest mishap.
"My foot got caught in some long grass," James said. "I felt it stretch (the ligament inside the knee) as I was falling, but I was able to pull it out of the grass before it sprained the ligament.
"I'll need to work on my timing when I get back, but I don't think I'll be too far behind. It's not like I don't know the offense."
Coach Don Coryell finally gave in to pressure from defensive line coach Gunther Cunningham and gave the go-ahead for offensive lineman Chris Faulkner to try out as a defensive end.
Cunningham had been pleading with Coryell for a year to experiment with Faulker as a pass rusher. Faulkner, 6-foot-4 and 278 pounds, is quick "and he's also mean, rough and tough," Cunningham said.
Faulkner has played tight end, offensive guard and fullback in short-yardage situations before the latest position switch.
"He probably is responsible for me getting out of college coaching," Cunningham said of Faulkner. "He caught a couple of bombs on us when he was at Florida and I was coaching defense at Cal.
"He's had a problem as an offensive guard, trying to be patient, because as a tight end he was always taught to get up field in a hurry. That's a quality that should make him a good pass rusher."
Both Cunningham and Coryell denied that moving Faulkner to defensive end was related to the continuing holdout of first-round draft choice Leslie O'Neal.
Cunningham, however, said he was eager to see O'Neal get his contract resolved and report to camp.
"Strictly in football terms, Leslie is hurting himself," Cunningham said. "We need him here to work on timing with our linemen and linebackers. We've been moving people around, and it's time they were getting a feel for each other."
Defensive lineman Earl Wilson has been fined more than $1,000 this week for his failure to meet a weight limit of 275 pounds. He is being fined $25 per pound, per day, for every day he weighs more than 275. He weighed 283 Wednesday morning. "He's working his butt off, but I'm not going to let up on him," Cunningham said. "It's hard to take money from a guy, but you have to be consistent once you start doing it."
Members of the San Diego Chargers allowed management to test them for drugs a second time this year, even though only one test is allowed under provisions of the players' collective bargaining agreement.
"It was not a requirement," wide receiver Wes Chandler, the team's player representative, said. "Management knows that and the players know that, too. But the team was willing to take that test."