SAN DIEGO -- Chargers running back Ryan Mathews still hopes he can play in the season opener Monday night against the Oakland Raiders.
After going through individual drills for the first time since breaking his collarbone Aug. 9, he might have a chance.
"I'm very hopeful. I really am," Mathews said Monday after catching passes and doing other work. "I've still got a whole week left to go so we'll see how it goes."
Being hopeful is one thing. Mathews said he also feels realistic.
"In my mind, yeah, but you never know, so I'm taking it day by day and hope everything goes as planned and I'm there Monday night," he said.
A Pro Bowler last year after rushing for 1,091 yards, Mathews was hurt on his first carry in the exhibition opener.
Mathews said he's been on the coaching and medical staffs to let him on the field.
"I kept saying, 'Let me come out here and do individual.' I've been asking for a week now. They feel confident in me, they see the progress I put in on the other field with rehab, so this is good."
He didn't participate in team drills, but said he did "mental stuff." Mathews will have to prove he can take a hit before being able to suit up.
"Just getting hit on that side, that's the main thing to worry about. Other than that, I think everything's good."
Coach Norv Turner wasn't made available to the media.
Mathews has said all along he's a fast healer and wants to be ready for the opener. He said being confident has helped with his recovery.
"If you're sulking around and feeling sorry for yourself, everything just takes longer," he said. "If you have the mindset that you're going to get back as soon as possible, I think everything goes a lot faster."
While Mathews is eager to get back, left tackle Jared Gaither continues to insist on being 100 per cent recovered from back spasms before he returns. He hasn't practiced since July 28 and the Chargers don't know when to expect him back.
Gaither refused to answer questions about his injury Monday and seemed to take offence when it was suggested that even if he's less than 100 per cent, he'd be better than the Chargers' other option. The Chargers, coming off a second straight season of missing the playoffs, plan to start rookie free agent Mike Harris at left tackle to protect Philip Rivers' blind side.
"If you ask Philip and the rest of my teammates, they want me at my best," Gaither said. "That's what I'm here to give everyone. Nothing but my best. The offence is at its best when I'm at my best. We're all a unit, and when everybody's at their best, that's when we're doing good.
"I'm a professional athlete. I study and work hard in the film room. I'm prepared as I possibly be," said Gaither, who helped solidify the Chargers' line the last five games last season and then got a big contract in the off-season.