San Diego Chargers punt returner/wide receiver Eddie Royal was taken off the practice field yesterday with a bruised lung and a concussion. According to U-T San Diego beat writer Michael Gehlken, “Royal jumped for a pass in a team drill and landed hard on his back about 11 a.m.”
Head coach Mike McCoy said “Royal had a little bit of a hard time breathing, so we’re going to take him to a hospital to check him out. That’s all I got right now. I can’t tell you anymore. I don’t know a whole lot about it.”
Royal signed a three year deal worth $13.5 million last year after playing for the Denver Broncos from 2008-11. Royal was brought in to solidify the punt returner position which had been a problem because San Diego ranked 22nd in the NFL with an average of 8.5 yards per punt return in 2011. Royal averaged about 12 yards per return prior to last season, but had a career low 5.3 yards per return in 2012.
The most productive game for Royal in terms of punt returns last year was against the Oakland Raiders when he had two returns for 18 yards on opening night.
Royal’s injury could open the door for former California Golden Bears WR/punt returner Keenan Allen to be San Diego’s punt returner. Royal and Allen were in a competition for the job before Royal’s injury. Royal had an edge because of his NFL experience and in the preseason Royal has one return for 11 yards while Allen fumbled on his only return.
Vincent Brown, Allen and Royal were in a battle to see who would start alongside Malcom Floyd at WR. Even though Brown missed the entire 2012 season with a broken ankle and missed seven of San Diego’s 10 practices before the first preseason game, he is expected to win the job.
There is no timetable for Royal’s return, but he can bounce back because he ranks sixth among active players in yards per punt return.