The second-year quarterback could be ready to play in 3-4 months if his rehabilitation goes well, but the Chargers aren't inclined to keep a roster spot open for him that long. Leaf, who dropped all the way to third string by the start of training camp, is expected to be put on the injured reserve list sometime before the season starts.
"We haven't made the decision, but it's likely we'll go to IR," general manager Bobby Beathard said.
"It's going to be a long time, and to carry a guy that long on the roster is unlikely," said coach Mike Riley, who already is anticipating tough decisions on how many players to carry at running back, fullback and tight end.
Leaf hurt his right shoulder diving on a fumble during a voluntary workout in June. He aggravated it throwing a deep pass during the first few minutes of the opening practice of training camp on Friday.
During Monday's 30-minute arthroscopic surgery, team doctors used three tacks to repair the torn labrum, trainer James Collins said.
Riley said Leaf needs to be consistent in his rehabilitation. Veteran quarterback Erik Kramer, signed by the Chargers on Thursday, had a similar injury last year and said the rehab was grueling.
Leaf hasn't always proven to be reliable during his brief, stormy NFL career. He supposedly fell asleep in team meetings last year, and caused grumbling among his teammates when, despite his atrocious rookie season, he skipped the first three days of the voluntary workouts in June to play in some charity golf tournaments. He also skipped some special passing drills Riley set up.
"He's young, so that's going to be another part of the learning process of being a pro athlete," Riley said. "It takes a lot of self-discipline, and Ryan's young and is learning how to do that. So obviously have to help him with that as far as staying on top of it ourselves."
"Even if you're gone for three weeks, guys lose track of what they're doing, and then when they come back, it's like, `You should know that.' But it's not that easy when they're not physically a part of it."
Collins said Leaf will have to wear a sling for two weeks and then will be able to begin his rehab. He won't begin throwing until at least a couple months into rehab.
Leaf, given an $11.25 million signing bonus after being taken as the second pick overall in the 1998 draft, was benched after nine starts. He threw 15 interceptions, two touchdown passes and lost four fumbles.
Meanwhile, defensive end Israel Ifeanyichukwu is scheduled for surgery Tuesday to repair torn cartilage and a partially torn anterior crucate ligament in his left knee. He was hurt in Saturday's practice and will be gone for the season.
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