Caldwell done with torn ACL
SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Chargers lost one wide receiver on Tuesday and gained two others.
Shortly after signing free agent Bobby Shaw, and while they were finalizing a deal for Pro Bowler Keenan McCardell just before the NFL trading deadline, the Chargers found out that Reche Caldwell has a torn ligament in his right knee and will miss the rest of the season.
Caldwell, who was hurt in Sunday's 21-20 loss at Atlanta, is expected to have surgery in the next few days to repair his torn anterior cruciate ligament.
"I was very disappointed because I'm playing well this year," said Caldwell, who made a spectacular one-handed, 58-yard touchdown catch on Oct. 3 in a win against Tennessee. "Unfortunately, it happened. I'm looking forward to playing next year."
Caldwell was San Diego's leading wideout, with 18 catches for 310 yards -- an average of 17.2 yards -- and three scores. Tight end Antonio Gates leads the team with 37 catches for 422 yards and three scores.
Smith said obtaining McCardell from Tampa Bay in exchange for two draft picks had nothing to do with the injury to Caldwell. The Chargers began talking with Tampa Bay during the weekend, and brought in Shaw -- released by Buffalo last week -- for a workout in case there was an injury.
"Bobby Shaw is the emergency guy," Smith said. "It's kind of unfortunate, because if the trade had gone down and we had a healthy Reche, it would have been really nice and Bobby would not have been in the mix, obviously. But that's the way life is in the NFL."
Shaw should be ready to play Sunday against Carolina. The Chargers received a two-game roster exemption for McCardell, the NFL's last holdout.
The Chargers gave up third- and sixth-round draft picks in 2005. The Chargers will have two sixth-round picks next year, the result of sending David Boston to Miami in March. Additionally, the Chargers will send Tampa Bay a fifth-round pick in 2006 if McCardell goes to the Pro Bowl this year or next.
The 34-year-old McCardell has gone to the Pro Bowl twice in his 13-year career, including last season when he had 84 catches for 1,174 yards and eight touchdowns.
"There's plenty of football left in Keenan McCardell," Smith said.
McCardell vowed to sit out the entire season if the Bucs did not give him a substantial raise over the $2 million in base pay he was scheduled to earn under a contract that will pay him $2.75 million in 2005.
Smith said the Chargers did not renegotiate McCardell's deal. After missing six game checks with Tampa Bay, McCardell will earn a little more than $1.29 million from the Chargers this season.
First, though, he must pass a physical on Wednesday.
"I talked to Keenan. He's excited and can't wait to put it all behind him and go to work," Smith said.
The Chargers can use some production from their wide receivers. Including Caldwell's 18 catches, wideouts have caught only 35 balls this year. Caldwell was the only Chargers' wide receiver to catch passes in consecutive wins over Tennessee and Jacksonville.
"We've got a buzz in the Charger organization. We're trying to get better step by step and we'll see where it goes from there," Smith said.
McCardell will be reunited with left tackle Roman Oben, who signed with San Diego as a free agent from Tampa Bay in the offseason.
Shaw was released by the Bills because he had just five catches for 59 yards this season. Last year he had career highs with 56 catches and 732 yards, and matched a career high with four touchdowns.
He previously had played for Pittsburgh and Jacksonville.
Also Tuesday, the Chargers placed defensive end Dave Ball on injured reserve following surgery for a broken toe.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press