No. 12 overall pick Ryan Mathews is slated to be the Chargers’ feature running back, so it seemed promising when on July 3 he promised to be in training camp on time. Mathews has since changed his tune, telling the San Diego Union-Tribune‘s Kevin Acee on Monday that his timely attendance isn’t guaranteed.
“It’s also a business,” said Mathews. “That’s what I have to realize. … I want to be on time. Hopefully that happens. If not, there’s nothing I can do.”
Mathews is the Chargers’ lone remaining unsigned rookie, so getting him under contract figures to be the team’s top priority over the next two weeks. Mathews, however, gained leverage when coach Norv Turner projected after the draft that the rookie would flirt with 300 touches in his first year. The Chargers also traded up for Mathews, and immediately inserted him with the first-team offense at minicamps.
If Mathews and his agent want to play hardball, they have Turner’s unnecessary comments to use in deliberations with G.M. A.J. Smith. Running backs have perhaps the shortest shelf lives of any position in the league. Beginning a career with a 250-carry season won’t help Mathews’ chances of lasting beyond age 30.
It also doesn’t hurt the player’s camp that Smith has been unable to make headway with disgruntled wide receiver Vincent Jackson, whose potential holdout makes Mathews an even more integral part of the offense.
Suddenly, Mathews is rivaling Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller as the most likely rookie to hold out.