Since the first week of training camp, Russell Okung has been held out of football since being diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism, a condition that had Russell not seen a doctor as quickly as he did after noticing shortness of breath during practice, could have cost him his life.
Seeing as this was not only career threatening, but life threatening, many of us have only been rooting for Okung to survive and live a healthy life. The Chargers placing him on the NFI (Non-Football Illness) List which keeps a player off your active roster for 6 weeks to start the season seemed more like the team was buying themselves time to evaluate him before needing to end his season.
Yesterday, Okung shared this with the world via twitter:
Oh happy day! pic.twitter.com/5j79ROagQu— The Best Has Yet To Come! (@RussellOkung) October 17, 2019
The news of Russell Okung winning his battle with the life threatening illness is not only phenomenal news in and of itself, but I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t nearly as excited to hear the possibility of Okung coming to rescue the Chargers offensive line in hollywood-movie-plot fashion. Did he say Week 7?
That thought seemed like a far fetched technicality referring to being activated off the NFI list rather than for this weekend’s game after being held out of football for almost three full months.
However, he has already been back to practice this week, and Eric Williams shared a response he got from Anthony Lynn on the left tackle’s availability:
Russell Okung practiced again today. Bolts have until 4 pm ET Saturday to add him to active roster. "He's only had a day and a half of practice, so if it's not enough to go in there and help us, and it could actually hurt us, then I have to make that decision, " Anthony Lynn said— Eric Williams (@eric_d_williams) October 18, 2019
It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to see this implies he should be out there Sunday. Anthony Lynn may keep things close to the vest, but this would be a very elaborate response to give off a strong impression that he’s playing when he isn’t, and that’s not something he’s done up to this point.
Trent Scott, an undrafted rookie in 2018 had one career start prior to being asked to man the left tackle position since Okung’s diagnosis. Already in a difficult position for any backup, he’s been asked to do this on a line that hasn’t possessed the ability to favor his side in pass protection in the way they should. Scott has done more than he should’ve been asked to, but if Okung is physically cleared, a day and a half of practice with his experience and ability would never hurt the team compared to what they’re asking Scott to deal with.
His return could not possibly have been better news for a struggling Chargers team coming off back to back losses to a Broncos team that was then 0-4, and a Steelers team that came into the game 1-4 fielding their third string quarterback in a loss that wasn’t as close as the score suggests. Injuries throughout the roster have been devastating, especially when taking away the only two proven, dependable veterans on the offensive line. Plugging Okung back into the starting lineup whether that be this week or next is indescribably good news. Couple that with the return of Hunter Henry last week who can offer some support in blocking to go with his dynamic receiving ability and a struggling Chargers offense is getting a huge boost up front.
For a team looking to fight their way into the playoff picture, they couldn’t have received any news better this week.