Derwin James Jr. spreads holiday cheer as he readies for Chargers playoff push

NFL Covid-19 protocols prevented him from personally attending, but Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. did what he could to spread holiday cheer by co-sponsoring a shopping spree for children in Tustin, California, on Tuesday. Courtesy of Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast

Los Angeles Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. treated 12 lucky kids from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast on Tuesday to a holiday shopping spree that he co-sponsored with Dick's Sporting Goods of Tustin, California.

"I just wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas," he said via video message.

Because of the NFL's updated COVID-19 protocols, James couldn't be there to witness the shopping spree in person, but he sent a virtual message wishing them a happy holiday and gave each child, in cooperation with Dick's, $150 to spend in the store. Needless to say they had a ball ...or two ... and added cleats and jerseys to their holiday haul. The kids were wide-eyed, as the boys picked blue shoes while the girls chose pink.

James has been a big supporter of the Boys & Girls Clubs, having played football in his local club in Polk County, Florida. He handed out Thanksgiving meals in Santa Ana last month and volunteered to support kids at Christmas.

On the football field, James continues to rehab his hamstring, which he injured late in the week before the Chargers' Week 14 matchup with the New York Giants, keeping him out of the game. He returned for last week's Thursday night game against the Kansas City Chiefs and re-aggravated it during the game, knocking him out of the overtime loss.

Chargers coach Brandon Staley was not concerned that James made the injury worse by playing and hopes he'll be available Sunday when the Chargers (8-6) play at the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium (1 p.m. ET, CBS). The Chargers currently hold the No. 2 wild-card spot (No. 6 seed overall) in the AFC.

"I don't think that it's any worse than it was going into the ball game," Staley said after the game. "I think that that's where we kind of shut it down, during the game, so that it would not worsen. He couldn't open up on it, it was just kind of grabbing, but there was no damage done to it last night. He gave it everything he had. I'm so proud of him for giving it a go. Hopefully, these 10 days will allow him to rest and get well, strengthen that and hopefully be out there for us soon."

The "mini-bye" after the Thursday night game gave players a football-free weekend, but the training facility was going full strength, with players going in for treatment. James knows all about that, as he missed the entire 2020 season with a torn meniscus in his right knee and much of the 2019 season because of a Jones fracture in his right foot.

He's played in just about every position in the secondary this season, recording 103 tackles, forcing three fumbles and snagging two interceptions. And he calls the defensive plays.

"He is a unique individual guy with the size and speed," said Chargers defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill. "And the ability to think on the go. ... We are just trying to maximize everything we can out of him, because he brings so much to the table."

And on Tuesday, he brought junior-sized cleats and sneakers, jerseys and balls.

"Merry Christmas," said James. "Hope to see you all real soon."