Why did the Chargers cut ties with defensive lineman Jerry Tillery?

COSTA MESA — In the final analysis, the Chargers waived defensive lineman Jerry Tillery because of personality clashes with teammates and coaches earlier this week that made his continued presence on the roster impossible. Tillery was said to be frustrated by a lack of playing time, among other things.

“There’s a point in relationships like this that you’ve got to move on, and it’s best for both people to move on,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “That’s what happened here. I just think there were competing visions for the role moving forward. It just became clear it wasn’t going to be a fit anymore.”

Chargers general manager Tom Telesco fielded several calls about Tillery before the trade deadline Nov. 1, but nothing panned out. When defensive lineman Austin Johnson suffered a season-ending knee injury this past Sunday, it seemed Telesco had made the right decision to keep Tillery.

Tillery’s frustration boiled over early this week despite having an opportunity to replace Johnson for the remainder of the season. He was absent from practice Wednesday and Thursday for what the team described as personal reasons. Telesco then waived the 2019 first-round pick out of Notre Dame after Thursday’s practice.

“Jerry has been a valued member of our organization since arriving in 2019, and I want to thank him for all his contributions to the Chargers,” Telesco said in a statement released by the team. “This was not an easy decision but, after careful consideration, it was a necessary one that is in the best interest of both team and player. We wish Jerry all the best moving forward in his career.”

It wasn’t clear to what extent Tillery’s frustration reached – whether it involved physical or verbal altercations – but it was evident he had become a distraction within the team and it was imperative that ties be severed days before Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Tillery played 54 games for the Chargers, recording eight of his 106 career tackles this season. However, he was a frequent target of Chargers fans who expressed their disappointment about his play and that of the defense, in general, from the stands and on social media, as well.

“It’s unfortunate,” Chargers edge rusher Khalil Mack said of the team’s decision to part ways with Tillery, who did not receive a contract extension before the start of the season. “You have to understand who Jerry is. He’s a good dude. He loves football. It’s always unfortunate when you see somebody go through that.

“I don’t think I’ve been a part of that in the sense that it’s in the middle of the season getting cut. It’s different – I don’t know – it’s a weird situation, but at the same time I know, wherever he goes, I know he’s going to get opportunities because he’s a talented player. Wherever he goes, he’s going to ball out and do his thing.”

Tillery’s departure and Johnson’s injury left a void in the defensive line that Staley said he expected Breiden Fehoko and Joe Gaziano to fill in the coming weeks, starting Sunday against the 49ers. Both players were on the Chargers’ practice squad to start this week but earned promotions.

Staley said it wasn’t set in stone that Tillery would replace Johnson.

“We felt like we were going to give (Fehoko) and (Gaziano) a chance to compete,” Staley said. “Where we’re at, what we’re trying to do with our team, on our defensive line, our whole team, trying to create competition and have guys earn their roles. That’s what we want to be here. That’s what we want to do. When those things didn’t line up, we had to make a change.”

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The Chargers ruled out wide receivers Keenan Allen (hamstring) and Mike Williams (ankle) for Sunday’s game. Staley said there was “a good chance” Williams would resume practicing with his teammates next week. He was injured during the Chargers’ loss Oct. 23 to the Seattle Seahawks.

Linebacker Chris Rumph II was listed as doubtful to play against the 49ers because of a knee injury. Left tackle Trey Pipkins III (knee) and backup guard Brenden Jaimes (shoulder) were listed as questionable. Storm Norton was expected to replace Pipkins if he couldn’t play.

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