Everyone’s asking the question. Is Philip Rivers hurt?

It’s natural to wonder if he’s being affected by an injury, because he’s already thrown a league-high 11 interceptions in seven games. His passer rating is significantly lower than it’s been his entire career, and league sources tell Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks that his arm strength appears diminished.

Plus, there’s this from Michael Freeman of CBS Sports:

People in the sport look at Philip Rivers’ throwing motion and believe he’s injured. His motion has always been awkward, but one personnel man who has studied film of Rivers this year says it’s particularly grotesque and in some shots on film he can be seen wincing.

Keep in mind, though, that despite two interceptions — and almost a third — Monday night in Kansas City, Rivers was great down the stretch. In the second half, he completed 14 of 22 passes for 205 yards and a 93.9 passer rating. If not for a fumbled snap that had nothing to do with an injury, the Chargers probably win that game and the injury questions probably subside.

There’s only one reason to conceal an injury: the fear that the injured player will become more vulnerable to defenders taking liberties by attacking the injured muscle, bone or joint. But based on the obscure and anonymous diagnoses emerging left and right, if Rivers is hurt he either has a shoulder or an arm problem. If that’s the case, there’s very little a defensive player can do to deliberately aggravate the alleged injury.

It frustrates us that we can’t tangibly explain what’s happening with Rivers, but maybe he’s just in a slump. His coach and others think he’s pressing, which makes a lot of sense considering that neither Antonio Gates nor Vincent Jackson are fully healthy. As our very own Alen Dumonjic pointed out last week, the majority of Rivers’ picks six weeks into the season could be tied to either poor decision-making, a lack of a clean pocket and poor timing with receivers. Those factors are rarely linked to an injury.

Rivers doesn’t seem like the same player this year, but his struggles have had a lot more to do with questionable choices than poor passes. So unless it’s a brain injury, Rivers isn’t hurt.

He insists he’s healthy despite the mistakes, and I’m taking that at face value. Rivers has too much pride and is too much of a bellyacher to keep an injury private while he struggles. If he’s struggling despite an injury, he’s a brave hero for his efforts. If he’s struggling without an excuse, he’s open for criticism.

Does anyone really believe a guy like Rivers would willingly allow his ego to be bruised like this?

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