Brandon Mebane is one of the most respected voices in the Los Angeles Chargers locker room, but the defensive tackle has been going through one of the most trying seasons of his 12-year career.
Mebane returned to the team on Wednesday after missing the past two games while his third child receives medical assistance. Makenna Mebane was born on Nov. 12 with a defective heart condition. Mebane was in Omaha, Nebraska, with his wife, Amena, and other two children, 4-year-old Mahailey and 2-year-old Makai, while Makenna received treatment for a stomach infection.
"It's tough for pretty much the whole season for me and this is the first time that I had experienced something like this," Mebane said. "It's been tough, but I've just been playing this year in dedication for my daughter, my son and my other daughter and my wife. It gives me something to push and fight for."
Makenna Mebane, who was born one month premature, has Trisomy 13, which is otherwise known as Patau syndrome. It is a rare genetic condition — babies are born with an extra chromosome — that causes delays in development as well as affecting many organs.
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Mebane has spent most of the season commuting between Los Angeles and Omaha, leaving after games Sunday night and returning Tuesday night.
Mebane said his wife found out about the hospital in Omaha through a Facebook group started by other parents whose children also have Trisomy 13. The family is likely to remain in Omaha until at least April since a date for Makenna's heart surgery has not yet been set.
"It has definitely been a process and learning experience which makes you appreciate life more," Mebane said. "She's doing better and making improvement. As a parent you want to see two or three more stair steps of progress, but I take one every day if that's what it is."
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said the best part of Wednesday's practice was seeing Mebane back.
"He's doing good. He's a captain for a reason. His leadership is very important," Lynn said. "He was locked in and focused."
Despite missing the past two games, Mebane is second on the defensive line in tackles (43) along with a sack and three tackles for loss. His return should help bolster a Chargers defense that is ranked eighth in the league going into Sunday's game against Cincinnati.
Lynn said that not playing the past couple of weeks could help the 33-year old Mebane physically during the late part of the season.
"With his experience and age having a couple weeks off he could come back with fresh legs," Lynn said.
NOTES: The Chargers (9-3) could clinch their first playoff spot since 2013 with a win and a loss or tie by Miami, Indianapolis, Tennessee and Denver. They have a two-game lead for the first wild-card spot and remain a game back of Kansas City in the AFC West. ... RB Melvin Gordon did not practice as he continues to work his way back from a MCL sprain to his knee that happened on Nov. 25 against Arizona. TE Sean Culkin also did not practice because of a neck injury.