SAN DIEGO -- Still smarting from last week's 41-7 drubbing at the hands of the New England Patriots, the San Diego Chargers were in sore need Thursday of a shot in the arm.
They got one.
Six-time Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau, who hasn't played since arthroscopic knee surgery Aug. 4, is expected to start Sunday's game at New Orleans.
Seau, listed as questionable for the game earlier this week, was upgraded to probable Thursday.
"You're always fearful that something unforeseen might happen at the last second, unexpected pain or swelling, but right now he's practicing like he's going to play, and his mindset is that he's going to play," Chargers coach Kevin Gilbride said. "We're very optimistic that he will."
Seau was injured in the Chargers' exhibition opener against San Francisco Aug. 2. He has missed just three starts in eight seasons and has led the Chargers in tackles in 60 of 110 career games.
With Seau out of the lineup last week, the Patriots amassed 424 yards.
"I'm expecting to play unless something drastic happens," Seau said. "Other than that, I'll be there Sunday. This is an important game, and I have to be ready to go.
"I know it's not going to be 100 percent, but at the same time there are also things that I can do out there," Seau added. "Obviously, I know the game, and I can anticipate some of the things that are going to happen. This way, we don't have players out of position trying to make up for my loss."
Of equal concern to the Chargers is the status of starting quarterback Stan Humphries, who separated his left shoulder against the Patriots. Humphries, questionable for Sunday's game, was held out of practice Thursday for the second straight day.
"I can't imagine Stan being back enough to start," Gilbride said.
He is expected to be replaced by 12-year veteran Jim Everett, who spent the last three seasons with New Orleans.
Humphries has dislocated his left shoulder three times since joining the Chargers in 1992.
"I think the first thing I said to myself as I was walking off the field to get an X-ray was, why me again?" Humphries said. "It's just been freak things. It makes you wonder sometimes. It's frustrating because you want to be out there playing."
Besides the dislocation, Humphries also took a helmet-to-helmet shot from linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who left his feet, and a forearm beneath the chin from linebacker Todd Collins. The hit by Bruschi split Humphries' lip.
Bruschi and Collins were both fined $7,500 by the NFL Thursday for their hits on Humphries.
Gilbride, who said Monday that he didn't feel the hits were cheap shots, reversed his field Thursday.
"I didn't want to get into at that point (on Monday)," Gilbride said. "I tried to do it the right way and send film clips to the league.
"At least it sends a message, and hopefully it will encourage some additional sensitivity to some of the hits he has been subjected to. In that respect, I'm delighted."