Russell Okung returns to Chargers starting lineup after health scare

Shalise Manza YoungYahoo Sports Contributor

The Los Angeles Chargers left Chicago on Sunday with a win thanks to a last-second missed field goal, but perhaps as important they welcomed back their top offensive lineman.

Veteran left tackle Russell Okung started and played 36 of 45 offensive snaps, nearly five months after a health scare that could have killed him, or at the very least ended his career.

‘Game was certainly emotional’

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On the eve of training camp in July, Okung revealed that he was recovering from a pulmonary embolism caused by blood clots, which happened in June.

“After experiencing unusual chest pain at practice on June 1st, I went to urgent care out of an abundance of caution. According to the doctors who treated me, the decision to do so likely saved my life,” he wrote in part in a statement posted to Twitter. “Thankfully, I’m okay now, but a few tests revealed that I suffered a Pulmonary Embolism caused by blood clots. When detected early, this condition is very treatable.”

A pulmonary embolism is a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in the lungs.

Good to be back: Chargers left tackle Russell Okung, right, was back on the field after a pulmonary embolism in June. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Good to be back: Chargers left tackle Russell Okung, right, was back on the field after a pulmonary embolism in June. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Via the Mayo Clinic, in most cases, pulmonary embolism is caused by blood clots that travel to the lungs from the legs, though rarely the clots come from other parts of the body.

Because clots block blood flow to the lungs, they can be life-threatening. As Okung noted, getting treatment quickly may have saved his life – about one-third of people with undiagnosed and untreated pulmonary embolism die.

Though he returned to practice before the Chargers’ Week 7 game, head coach Anthony Lynn didn’t play Okung until Sunday.

“The game was certainly emotional,” Okung said after the win. “Before the game I just looked into the crowd and I looked around.”

‘That means the world’

After his private moment, Okung was showed love from his teammates.

“I got a lot of love from my teammates that came up to me personally,” Okung said. “Wishing me a good game. Telling me that they were happy that I’m back. That means the world. To have the support of your peers and their belief, it’s better than any accolade in the world. I got good people in my life. I got a great team.”

That included Trent Scott, who got to start at left tackle in Okung’s absence. Against the Bears, Scott came off the bench and played both tackle positions.

On Monday morning, Okung posted a reflective tweet:

“I went from laying on a hospital bed and being told I would never play football again to returning [to] the field with my brothers against the Chicago Bears. Wow!,” he wrote.

While Okung did understandably look tired as the game wore on, he got positive marks for his play.

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