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Corey Linsley might have to retire; Chargers Keenan Allen, Mike Williams want to stay

Chargers safety Derwin James (left) talks with receivers Mike Williams (81) and Keenan Allen.

Almost certainly facing retirement, Chargers center Corey Linsley explained Monday that he’s more grateful than discouraged.

The veteran said he’s “probably 99% sure” that he has played his final football game because of a heart issue that forced him to miss the last 15 weeks of the 2023 season.

“Year 10, I don’t know how many years I have left anyway,” Linsley said. “It sucks, obviously, not how I would want this to end. But can’t complain, can’t be sad about 10 years in, you know.”

Linsley, 32, spoke publicly for the first time since his diagnosis as the Chargers wrapped up their 5-12 season with exit physicals and a brief team meeting at their Costa Mesa training facility.

He explained that his issues began last spring when he underwent a procedure to address an arrhythmia that he described as genetic.

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Linsley said he never felt quite like himself afterward and continued to see doctors into the summer, though any concrete answers remained elusive.

When the problems persisted into the season, he said more testing revealed a second heart issue unrelated to the arrhythmia. A specialist then advised Linsley to stop playing and reevaluate the situation in six months.

He said he is scheduled for more tests and expects to make a final decision on whether or not to resume his career “around March.”

“It was hard at first,” Linsley said. “But it would be devastating, tragic in, like, year four, right? Or before I even started playing. … For sure, it sucks. But there’s so much to be thankful for that I can’t really be too upset.”

The 6-foot-3 Linsley was listed this season at 301 pounds. He was noticeably thinner Monday, admitting that he has “lost a good amount of weight” while avoiding giving an exact total.

Linsley said the weight loss was all part of trying to be healthier in regards to his heart. He explained that the effort of playing football and in training to play puts his body under an additional strain that could be harmful.

Chargers center Corey Linsley (63) looks to make a block in front of quarterback Justin Herbert.
Chargers center Corey Linsley (63) might have to retire because of a heart condition. (Kirk Irwin / Associated Press)

Over the season’s final few months, Linsley remained with the Chargers and even traveled to some road games. He said the ability to stay involved on any level “made everything a lot more palatable and easy to take.”

A fifth-round draft pick of Green Bay in 2014, Linsley spent the first seven years of his career with the Packers. He signed with the Chargers as a free agent in 2021 and made the Pro Bowl that season.

He started 14 games last season and continued to lead the team’s offensive line.

“Corey’s been awesome,” quarterback Justin Herbert said. “He’s such a great leader and such a great teammate. What he’s given this game over the years is remarkable. We’re definitely going to miss a guy like that if he decides to retire.”

Linsley thanked the Chargers for their support and his doctors. Regardless of his future, he said he’ll cherish the time he has had so far in the NFL.

“The locker room’s the best part,” Linsley said. “Winning is also sweet. Mondays after a victory, Sundays after a victory are amazing. Being in the locker room with the guys, those are the best times that stick out in my mind.

“It’s a special bond. It’s an elite group of guys. We’re all very fortunate to be even in here. That sort of bond that you get with guys who appreciate that, it’s special. I'll miss it. But I’m thankful I even got to experience it.”

Two mending pass catchers

Chargers receiver Keenan Allen (13) celebrates a catch by teammate Mike Williams (81).
Chargers receiver Keenan Allen (13) celebrates a catch by teammate Mike Williams (81). (Peter B Joneleit / Associated Press)

Two other Chargers — wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams — also spoke publicly Monday for the first time since their season-ending injuries, both saying they want to remain with the team.

Allen missed the final four games because of a heel problem and Williams was lost in Week 3 when he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Both players are entering the final years of their contracts and have significant salary cap numbers — in excess of $32 million each — for a team that is nearly $35 million over the projected cap.

“I don’t want to go nowhere else,” said Allen, the longest-tenured Charger. “I’ve been here [11] years. … I’m not looking forward to anything else.”

When asked if he wanted to stay, Williams said, “For sure. Why not?”

Allen, 31, was having his finest season before he was hurt. He finished with a career-best 108 receptions for 1,243 yards, his second-highest total.

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One possibility involves the Chargers trading Allen, an idea Allen said he would entertain only for “a select few” destinations.

“I’m not playing for a team I don’t want to play for,” he insisted. “I’ve been playing this game long enough. I’m kind of solidified on that side. If it did come down to that, then adiós, amigos.”

Williams, 29, described himself as “slightly ahead” of schedule in his return from surgery, which came in the third week of October. He refused to give any specifics in terms of a timetable.

He also said he’s not worried about what the next few months might bring as the Chargers hire a coach and general manager and the new leadership sorts out the roster.

“I feel like all that’s going to play out itself,” Williams said. “I don’t really think about that too much. … My main focus is just getting back healthy.”

Quarterback processing well

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert walks off the field with an injured finger protected in his sweatshirt pouch.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert walks off the field with an injured finger suffered against the Broncos protected in his sweatshirt pouch. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Herbert said he’s expecting to be able to resume throwing in roughly the next month as he works his way back from surgery on his broken right index finger.

His operation came in mid-December, and he missed the final four games of the season.

With the Chargers searching for a new head coach, the future of offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is in doubt. If Moore departs, Herbert would be working with his fourth coordinator in just five years with the team.

After opening his career with one season of Shane Steichen, Herbert had two years of Joe Lombardi.

A lack of continuity can’t help any offense, Herbert explaining that a “sense of comfort” comes when there’s more familiarity with the plays and the play-caller.

In a second season with the same system, he said the foundation can be expanded, leading to better understanding and more possibilities.

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Still, Herbert generally dismissed any suggestion that another coordinator change could be a problem for him or the Chargers.

“It’s football,” he said. “It’s part of the job. It’s up to us to be able to figure that out and keep going.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.