COSTA MESA, Calif. — Even though Melvin Gordon went public with plans to hold out and not report to training camp on Wednesday due to an impasse in contract negotiations, Los Angeles Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said no ill will developed at this point between the organization and the star running back.
“I love Melvin Gordon,” Telesco said. “He’s an excellent player. He’s tough. He has a great work ethic and represents our organization extremely well. But he’s not here.
“I understand his thoughts and opinions of what he’s going through. I always look at the player’s side, so I can see it. It doesn’t mean I agree with it, but I can kind of see what his thought process is.”
Telesco went on to say that the Chargers offered Gordon a new contract, but at this point the Chargers will go with what they have for now on team’s depth chart in Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson and Detrez Newsome.
“I’m not naïve: I know we’re better with Melvin Gordon,” Telesco said. “But we’ve got a strong group of guys that are here, and it’s their time to work and get ready to go.”
Gordon is in the final year of a rookie contract, but wants a new deal that puts him among the highest-paid running backs in the league. Gordon told the Chargers through his representation if he does not receive a new deal, he’ll sit out and demand a trade.
Telesco said that he does not condone holding out, but based on everything he’s read that he believes Gordon has been professional with the way he’s handled the situation. As it stands now, Telesco said the Chargers are moving forward as if Gordon will eventually be with the team.
“My only thought process is, he’s playing here,” Telesco said. “He’s an L.A. Charger.”
The last time the Chargers dealt with a player sitting out training camp was 2016, when defensive end Joey Bosa sat out 31 days due to offset language and the earlier payment of signing bonus money in his rookie contract.
After a month-long impasse, the two sides eventually reached a compromise a week before the start of the regular season.
Unlike Bosa, Gordon is under contract, in the final year of his rookie deal that’s scheduled to pay him $5.6 million in 2019.
Because Gordon is under contract, he is subject to fines up to $40,000 per each day of training camp he misses, according to the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
Chargers center Mike Pouncey said he’s talked with Gordon and has been in his situation as a veteran NFL player, wanting to maximize his contract.
“It’s tough, but you just be there for him,” Pouncey said. “Mel’s a hell of a football player. What he’s fighting for, to get the money he deserves, every player wants that. I don’t get into the whole contract disputes, but Mel’s one of the top running backs in the NFL, and he deserves to get paid like that. Whether that happens this year or next year, it’s going to happen eventually.”
However, Pouncey also understands the train doesn’t stop moving with Gordon not around, and the Chargers have to continue to get ready for the start of the regular season.
“He’s a hard worker, and he’s an awesome football player,” Pouncey said. “So I hope they get it worked out because we need him on our football team. We’re trying to do something special here this year, so we’ll see how it all works out. I hope he’s back at some point during training camp, but if not, I’ll support him throughout the whole year, and we’ll do what we have to do without him.”
Cornerback Casey Hayward said despite the team’s 4-0 record last season without Gordon, the Wisconsin product remains a key part of the Bolts.
“Melvin’s one of my brothers, one of the guys I’m close with,” Casey Hayward said. “So I definitely understand his situation. There’s a short window that you can get paid in this profession, especially at the running back position. And I feel like that he feels like he’s in that window right now. He’s in his prime, so I definitely understand where he’s at.”
Telesco also told reporters left tackle Russell Okung was placed on the active, non-football injury list, which means he still counts against the 90-man roster.
Okung’s availability for training camp is in question. Telesco said Okung dealt with a serious medical issue in June that he’s still recovering from. Telesco went on to say it’s possible Okung misses all of training camp, and even some regular-season games.