The now-37-year-old quarterback played against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game six days after suffering a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee.
Although the Chargers lost 21-12, Rivers limping through the game sealed his status as one of the toughest players the league has seen. He has continued to prove it in every game since, with his active streak of 208 consecutive regular-season games played the longest in the NFL.
Rivers didn’t have one of his best games that Sunday in 2008, completing just 19 of 37 passes for 211 passing yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions, as the Chargers failed to score anything but field goals.
But 11 years later, he finally gets another postseason shot at Tom Brady when the Chargers visit the Patriots on Sunday (1:05 p.m. ET, CBS) in a divisional-round playoff game. A win would return the Chargers to the AFC title game for the first time since Rivers’ ACL game.
“The fact that he played was unbelievable,” Brady said. “They played a good game. We made a few plays, got a couple turnovers from them. It ended up being a tough game. It was a hard-fought win.
“There’s a reason why both teams are playing here this weekend — because we’ve earned it and put ourselves in position for a great opportunity. Both our teams want to win, and it’s going to be a tough game, regardless of the outcome.”
Two graybeards, Rivers and Brady will have a combined age of 78 years and 198 days on Sunday, making it the oldest combined starting quarterback matchup in postseason history.
Back in January 2008, Brady was 30 and in his eighth NFL year and Rivers was 26 and in his fourth. The Patriots were at the end of a perfect season and trying to cement their status as one of the greatest NFL teams ever by reaching and winning the Super Bowl.
However, an injured Rivers playing with a balky knee stood in their way.
“Honestly, it wasn’t crazy pain,” Rivers said about playing with the injury. “It kind of buckled a few times in the game, but I really was thankful. Throughout the course of the game, I didn’t feel like it hindered me as much as I anticipated.
“We didn’t have our best day. It didn’t help, but we didn’t have our best day, and I really don’t attribute it to that.”
In addition to Rivers’ injury, running back LaDainian Tomlinson had a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL) and tried to play, but he proved unable to make the cuts he normally made and gave way to Michael Turner.
According to Dr. David Chao, the Chargers’ head team doctor at the time, Rivers and Tomlinson were not the only players dealing with injuries.
Tight end Antonio Gates was hobbled and needed reconstructive surgery on his big toe. Fullback Lorenzo Neal (fibula fracture) and center Nick Hardwick (Lisfranc injury) had recently come back from surgery.
And outside linebacker Shawne Merriman had put off reconstructive knee surgery that ultimately led to his career being cut short.
“We really were in bad shape going in there as a collective unit,” Rivers said. “So, yeah, we had some guys with some things [back then].”
NFL Live’s Tedy Bruschi and Darren Woodson explain their picks for the AFC divisional matchup between the Chargers and Patriots.
After suffering the knee injury in a 28-24 playoff win at the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round, Rivers was insistent that he would play against the Patriots the following week.
Even as fans taunted him when he walked off the field to the locker room at the RCA Dome, Rivers told them, “I’ll be back.”
Rivers was right.
“That entire week was really interesting because a lot of people on our team didn’t know Philip even had an ACL tear,” Hardwick said. “We knew that he had surgery, and that he had to unlock his knee.
“And we knew he wasn’t going to be out to practice until at least Friday, maybe not going to be available until the walk-through on Saturday, but we all understood that he was going to play. And I don’t think there was ever any doubt he was going to play.”
Thousands of fans waited to greet the players upon their return to Chargers Park from Indianapolis on that Sunday, but Rivers managed to slip through the back of the facility unnoticed, get in his truck and get an MRI that night, confirming the ACL and meniscus tears.
The Chargers had a competent backup the team trusted in Billy Volek, who finished out the game against the Colts. However, Rivers didn’t want to miss a chance to reach his first Super Bowl, so he pushed to play.
After receiving an MRI Sunday evening, Rivers had to make a decision on whether to have arthroscopic surgery the next day to repair the torn meniscus to unlock his knee.
Rivers met with the team’s medical staff and coach Norv Turner, remaining insistent that he would play.
“People ask about teams and coaches forcing players to play hurt,” Chao said. “But in my experience, it’s the players themselves that force themselves to play. Norv wasn’t telling Philip to get the surgery and come back quickly. He was like, ‘Take your time, Philip, we got you. You’ve got a long career, Billy’s got this.’
“But Philip remained steadfast to do what it took to play, and we moved forward with surgery.”
So how hard is it to play with a torn ACL?
“You could call the ACL an internal seat belt,” Chao said. “No question, you can drive your car without a seat belt on and get away with it. But in the NFL you’re racing NASCAR, and you better have your seat belt on.
“So it’s not normal to play without an ACL. In Rivers’ case, we had him in some special bracing that we felt could temporarily keep him safe. But even then, we made him aware of the risks, and he wanted to play.”
Hardwick said Rivers appeared to manage the injury well for the most part.
“I don’t remember anything about him not being able to execute his job,” Hardwick said. “It was pretty remarkable what he was able to do in such a quick turnaround. Not only having an ACL tear, but having a meniscus cleaned out the week before. It’s pretty gritty.
“That’s Philip. We knew it meant so much to him that he was going to find a way to get it done. He was not going to let this moment pass him by.”
Throughout his 15-year career, Rivers has dealt with his fair share of injuries, but has always answered the bell.
Rivers played through a chest injury and bulging disk in his back during the backstretch of the 2014 season, missing his first practice since 2007.
Rivers also was diagnosed with his first concussion during the 2017 season, and did not clear concussion protocol until Friday, two days before taking the field against the Buffalo Bills in a 54-24 victory in Week 10.
A devout Catholic who has always been outspoken about his faith, Rivers wears a medal around his neck of St. Sebastian, the patron saint of athletes. Leading up to the playoff game against the Patriots more than a decade ago, a concerned Rivers was buoyed by a comment over the phone from his mother, Joan, who reminded her son that St. Sebastian’s feast day was Jan. 20, the day of the Patriots game.
“The week following [the Colts] game was a very spiritual one for me,” Rivers told the National Catholic Register. “… Amazingly, maybe even miraculously, I was able to play [against the Patriots].”
Rivers knows the numbers.
He’s 0-7 overall against Brady, a future Hall of Famer and the GOAT. That includes an 0-2 record in the postseason, with Rivers completing only 48 percent of his passes, with no touchdowns and three interceptions.
The Patriots have won eight straight playoff games at Gillette Stadium, the fifth-longest home playoff win streak in league history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
New England is 8-0 at home this season.
However, Rivers says this season is a new year, with the Chargers 9-0 when boarding a plane this season.
“This team is 0-0,” Rivers said. “We’ve never played them. Certainly, I was a part of all those teams that didn’t win in those games, but this team right here has never played them, and that’s the way I look at it.”
Hardwick remembers the confetti falling from the sky at the end of the 2008 game and his former college teammate and Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light celebrating a return trip to the Super Bowl as he watched from the sideline.
He’s looking forward to a better result for his former team this time around.
“We had our chance at them and we were unsuccessful,” Hardwick said. “For me as a former teammate of a couple of these guys and a fan of the rest of them, I really just wish them the best of luck. And I hope they go there and can execute their assignments and keep their emotions in check enough to be able to fulfill their potential.
“I really do feel that this is the best-coached Chargers football team that I can remember in quite a long time.”
Chiefs’ Hill meets with NFL investigators
It was a “very thorough interview,” according to the source.
Hill has been banned from the team’s training facility amid an investigation by the Kansas Department of Children and Families into possible child abuse, battery or neglect. The investigation began after officers in Overland Park, Kansas, were called to Hill’s home twice in March when Hill’s 3-year-old son suffered a broken arm.
Hill, a three-time Pro Bowler, remains subject to a suspension under the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
There is currently no criminal investigation, according to Johnson County District Attorney Stephen M. Howe.
Ex-RB Wood, woman indicted in child death case
LAS VEGAS — A former pro football player and his girlfriend have been indicted on murder and 20 felony child abuse charges in the death of the woman’s 5-year-old daughter, court officials said Tuesday.
Former NFL and Canadian Football League running back Cierre Marcelle Wood, 28, and Amy Taylor, 26, are accused of killing Taylor’s daughter, La’Rayah Davis, who was found lifeless on April 9 in Wood’s apartment.
Taylor and her daughter had moved in with Wood and his young daughter less than two weeks earlier.
A judge who heard evidence last month against Wood said it was clear that La’Rayah suffered before she died and that Wood and Taylor were responsible for her death.
The judge cited photos of numerous external bruises from what were described as finger-pokes to the girl’s abdomen, back, arms and legs. Autopsy findings showed La’Rayah had 20 newly broken ribs, internal bleeding, a lacerated liver and bruises to her heart, diaphragm and connective tissue.
Taylor told police she sat on the girl while disciplining her about a week before her death, according to court documents.
Wood told police he used exercise as discipline, and had La’Rayah do physical activities including running sprints in the apartment. On the day she died, La’Rayah fell backward while doing sit-ups and hit her head on the carpeted floor, he said.
Taylor told police she was at a grocery store at the time.
A scheduled bail hearing for Wood was called off after the indictment, filed June 14, moved the case to state court for trial with Taylor on charges that could get each of them life in prison if they’re convicted.
Wood plans to plead not guilty at his arraignment July 2, his lawyer Thomas Ericsson said.
Taylor’s public defender, Sarah Hawkins, declined to comment.
Wood played for the University of Notre Dame before NFL stints with Houston, New England and Buffalo.
He was released last year by the Montreal Alouettes in Canada. Ericsson said Wood worked in Las Vegas as a health care associate.
Cam Newton’s $1,500 plane offer shows it’s hard to stay under radar – Carolina Panthers Blog
If Cam Newton wanted to have a quiet offseason, he’s not succeeding.
The Carolina Panthers quarterback has caused quite a social-media stir. He was photographed all over Paris at Men’s Fashion Week, then was caught on video making a $1,500 offer to switch seats on the flight home (and denied).
The latter in particular drew attention — 4.5 million views on the video posted to Eli Edwards’ Twitter account as of Wednesday morning.
“Man, I don’t know,” Edwards told ESPN.com. “I’m not big on Twitter. I just posted the video on Twitter because I didn’t get the response on Instagram I expected. The Twitter one went viral.”
— Eli Edwards (@ElisaraEdwards) June 22, 2019
Edwards, 28, was headed home after proposing to his girlfriend at the Women’s World Cup. Newton was headed back to Charlotte to attend his annual 7-on-7 high school football tournament in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
Edwards, a former Colorado State defensive end, initially ran into the former Auburn star at the ticket counter and recognized him.
When Newton missed his initial flight, as Edwards later discovered, the 2015 NFL MVP had to fly home in economy with a connection through Dallas. The 10-hour flight is tough enough on an average-sized person, but when you’re 6-foot-5, leg room is a premium.
So Newton offered $1,500 to a passenger in what appeared to be an exit-row seat.
And was turned down.
Twice. The first offer was for $1,000.
Edwards initially thought it was joke that Newton was flying in economy. He’s almost positive the passenger who turned down the offer didn’t have a clue who Newton was.
“No one did, honestly,” Edwards said. “I felt no one knew the situation except me.”
The video got arguably as much or more attention as when Newton, coming off his second offseason shoulder surgery in three offseasons, threw for the first time in practice during a three-day minicamp on June 11-13.
For comparison, Edwards said his proposal video that was posted internationally got only about 7,000 views.
Newton, known for his big smile, gave a sheepish grin after being denied and walked to his seat. He suffered through the flight and made it back in time for his tournament.
“To me, it didn’t look like he was mad,” Edwards said of Newton. “It looked like he slept about seven hours, so he couldn’t have been that uncomfortable.”
Meanwhile, social media was abuzz wanting to know everything from why the passenger turned down the money to why Newton was in economy.
“The guy asked Cam how tall he was,” Edwards said. “Cam said he was 6-6. The guy said he was 6-4. He was with the three other gentlemen. It was like asking a couple to move because they were all together.”
Newton also caused a stir with his unusual style in Paris.
Newton considers himself the “King of Swag,’’ at least in the NFL. From his signature designer hats, to loafers and no socks, to outlandish color combinations, the first pick of the 2011 draft was among a star-studded cast of athletes in Paris that included NBA star Russell Westbrook and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
Here Newton is with Westbrook:
In an interview with ESPN.com in May, Newton mentioned Kelce as one of the few NFL players who might challenge him in style.
“Man, it’s a lot of [NFL] guys who take fashion extremely serious,” he said. “They dare to be different. Travis Kelce is one of them. Odell [Beckham] easily one of them. How can you forget about Antonio Brown?”
However, Newton owns bragging rights for the past two weeks thanks to an unusual encounter captured by Edwards.
“I feel like he was trying to be incognito,” Edwards said of Newton. “But with Cam’s appearance, you can spot him right away.”
Warner reveals unlikely secret to slower tempo
England boss Phil Neville convinced Lionesses are ready to earn World Cup glory
Man Utd transfer news LIVE: Aaron Wan-Bissaka medical, Barcelona plot, £100m deal decision
Nicholas Pooran joins Yorkshire for Vitality T20 Blast
One question raised about Aaron Wan-Bissaka by Liverpool icon as Man Utd near £50m deal
Arsenal boss Unai Emery needs to ‘break the bank’ for one Premier League star – Campbell
Man City backed to replace David Silva with one player – ‘He’s going to be even better’
Arsenal boss Unai Emery identifies new winger target – and he wants to move this summer
Cubs to add reliever Kimbrel to roster Thursday
Frank Warren aims dig at Eddie Hearn while revealing Tyson Fury’s next possible opponent
NBA6 days ago
In action-packed Draft, Hawks and Grizzlies add to promising cores
Motorsport4 days ago
F1 French Grand Prix 2019 LIVE: Results, timings, race, Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, stream, updates, France, highlights, watch video, latest news
Motorsport5 days ago
French GP: Lewis Hamilton dices with danger; Sebastian Vettel jokes about retiring
Golf4 days ago
Colin Montgomerie on secret to success, Tiger Woods changing golf and why he’s still going
NFL5 days ago
Matt Ryan: Falcons have ‘a great chance’ to return to Super Bowl – Atlanta Falcons Blog
Soccer4 days ago
Dean Henderson issues stunning Man Utd wage demands amid David De Gea uncertainty
MLB3 hours ago
Cubs to add reliever Kimbrel to roster Thursday
Soccer6 days ago
Man Utd transfer news LIVE: Wan-Bissaka deal in 48 hours, Maddison agent talks, Pogba exit