“It’s really important they be here…to learn..to be part of the team”.
And with that, that was the end of the comments from Chargers coach Mike McCoy about the missing players when the team began its 3-weeks of OTA workouts at the Fortress.
In an era where 100-percent turnout is usually the norm, the Chargers top defensive player isn’t there, and neither is the left tackle. One, Eric Weddle, the star safety, has explained his feelings. He wants a contract extension before he goes back on the field, eventhough he owes them one year, in wrapping up the lucrative (5Y-$40M) deal he received in the past. He will be in camp, rest assured in late June, when the mandatory mini-camps take place. No one wants to be fined $72,000 for missing those 3-workouts.
As for left tackle King Dunlap, he found a home here, coming in on a 1-year deal, having a decent year, then earning a 3-year extension. Maybe it is an illness, maybe he got dinged in off season workouts. You hope he’s not going “Jared Gaither” on the team, you know, the lineman who got a payday, then kicked back, and eventually got kicked off the roster. It was surprising the important left tackle was not at Chargers Park.
Tight end Antonio Gates, he of 200,000-mile fame was not in the camp either, but there is plenty of time to iron out whatever issues exist..
The 1st day of McCoy’isms had plenty of platitudes. One sentence he’s praising the progress all the new players have made, and their promise. The next sentence, saying ‘it’s only the first day of OTAs.
Jason Verrett, coming off surgeries to both labrums the last 18-months, says sitting out last year rehabbing helped him acclimate himself to the NFL level of play. He can play, but the bigger issue, can he stay healthy.
The lst round pick Melvin Gordon admitted to being overwhelmed with the playbook and its responsibilities, but he appears to be a football student, wanting to learn and go and go and go. The 2nd choice, the fire-hydrant built linebacker Denzell Perryman did not practice, due to some minor injury, but did run. Waiting to see him hit people..
Quarterback Philip Rivers, the face, the voice of the team, was more open and sincere about leadership, his return to health from back injuries, being a football junkie, missing the retired Nick Hardwick, Jeromey Clary and Jarrett Johnson, his contract, and the business side of football.
When all was said and done, depending on whom you believe, the Chargers will have a great season, are nowhere’s near ready to take down Denver, have missing players with and without explanations, and have the 1.1 billion elephant in the room, the stadium story out there, no one wants to talk about.
New receiver Stevie Johnson caught everything they threw and broke off runs. CFL import Donnie Inman, who had two nice games to close out last year, kept making catches in traffic. DJ Fluker looks trimmed down. Ditto for much needed linebacker Melvin Ingram. Somebody needs to surface to be a run stuffing nose tackle, so that will surely be a story by the time they wrap this OTA schedule up in 3-weeks.
Rivers is the most honest man in the building, is such a gem to deal with. The rest of them mumbling cliches and wishing their media commitment time was over. The quarterback gets it, no-one else seems too. The team even put out a 3-page Media Guide, directing the media what they could and could not ask, nor report.
And standing on the sidelines, a haggard looking owner Dean Spanos, caught in the middle of the Stadium tug-of-war, needing to make a tough decision, and at the same time, knowing full well the hour glass timer on Rivers career is running out. He too didn’t want to talk, much like his coach.
Guess everyone over there is feeling the pressure of 1-playoff win in six seasons. Everything is beautiful, except the reality of the football side, and the business side of Chargers football.