NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - INSIDE SLANT
Rookies D.J.Fluker, Steve Williams and Keenan Allen were there -- for real. But few took much notice of those highly touted rookies at San Diego Chargers rookie camp.
All eyes for most of the day were glued to the rookie wearing No. 50 -- Manti Te'o.
Te'o, the second-round pick out of Notre Dame, was back on the football field for the first time since January when it became known that he was the victim of a catfishing hoax, and his girlfriend never existed.
"It doesn't really matter what people say," Te'o told U-T San Diego. "The only thing that matters to me is what I do on the field and what my teammates know me as. Know me as a guy who works hard and loves the game."
He appeared to be nervous during the early portion of the practice, but was able to rally and show signs of leadership, something the Chargers and new coach Mike McCoy are counting on.
"He's a natural leader, just goes out there and plays. He ran the defensive huddle all day today and did a great job," McCoy said.
Te'o, who has a good chance to earn a starting job, admitted to being excited, but not nervous.
"It's a new beginning, a new chapter in my life," Te'o said. "Once I got out there I think the nervousness left and it was all excitement. It was fun."
--San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates does not like being rated No. 73.
Gates took issue with his ranking on the NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2013" countdown Thursday night.
"Apparently they don't watch football," he told host Lindsay Rhodes, NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp, NFL.com's Dave Dameshek, defensive back Charles Woodson and Yahoo! Sports' Michael Silver.
"I understand everyone's opinion. Some people are stat guys, some people are into who catches the touchdowns, who has 100-something catches. A lot of people are not interested into what the game plan is about, what guys demand the game plan every single week, week in and week out, (and) what guys demand double teams. I can go on down the list.
"It is funny to me because it is a joke, in a sense, so it is kind of funny. It is a voice of an opinion. I go out and do what I can do and try to help us win football games. It is always frustrating to see you placed so low. At the same time, it gives me a little chip on my shoulder to come back next year and prove I am one of the better tight ends in the league."
The voters for the show's top 100 list are NFL players.
Last year, Gates made 49 receptions for 538 yards with seven touchdowns in 15 games. He has 642 career catches for 8,321 yards with 83 touchdowns.
--The draft has come and gone and sadly for the Chargers, they still have a gaping hole at left tackle.
While rookie general manager Tom Telesco got some decent marks for his first draft, it's clear the team's biggest need wasn't filled: left tackle.
That had as much to do with the top three left tackles being off the board before the Chargers picked at No. 11. So the Chargers shifted sides, reeling in Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker to address a need there.
The Chargers decided the price was too steep to move up and get one of the top three left tackle prospects. And with so many holes in their depleted roster, that might have been a wise move.
But that doesn't erase what is the line's biggest challenge: protecting Philip Rivers. He was sacked 49 times last year, the second-most in the NFL, and hit on numerous other occasions.
The Chargers could be turning to the free-agent market to plop in a new left tackle to protect Rivers' blind side. Among those available are Eric Winston and Max Starks.
The Chargers visited with Bryant McKinnie most recently; they met with Winston earlier this offseason. McKinnie came on during the Ravens' Super Bowl run last season, started in the playoffs and playing at a high level. But he re-signed with the Ravens on Thursday.
The Chargers could find their way into a bidding war on someone that is expected to be no more than a one-season bridge to the future.
Still, it might be worth it if the Chargers want to preserve Rivers and try to get the one-time Pro Bowler back on track.
If the Chargers don't land any of the free agents, they would likely insert newcomer King Dunlap into the position. Another option is Michael Harris, but he filled in last year when Jared Gaither was hurt and that didn't work out so swell.
At least Telesco found someone for right tackle, and all indications are Fluker will replace last year's starter, Jeromey Clary.
What's not reassuring is not only are there question marks at left tackle, but Fluker's strength is run-blocking. While the Chargers feel good about their draft, their offensive line could still have leaks at both ends in pass protection, and that's not good news for Rivers.
NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - NOTES, QUOTES
--The Chargers announced Saturday they signed fifth round draft pick Steve Williams, a cornerback.
Five of San Diego's six draft choices are signed, including second round inside linebacker Manti Te'o, third round wide receiver Keenan Allen, sixth round outside linebacker Tourek Williams, seventh round quarterback Brad Sorensen and Williams.
The only remaining unsigned draft pick for the Chargers is first round offensive tackle D.J. Fluker.
--The Chargers announced the signing of four draft picks Thursday, including former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, a second-round pick.
The Chargers also signed wide receiver Keenan Allen, outside linebacker Tourek Williams and quarterback Brad Sorensen.
--Tourek Williams, the team's sixth-round pick from Florida International, is also on the move. Williams played defensive end in college in a 4-3 alignment. The Chargers will keep him on the edge, but bounce him back to linebacker in the team's 3-4 setup. "We think he can do it," general manager Tom Telesco said.
--LaDaianian Tomlinson, Part II? Tomlinson said the Chargers approached the future Hall of Fame running back about making a comeback. Telesco confirmed the Chargers reached out to Tomlinson, the former Chargers great, but Tomlinson made it clear he wouldn't come out of retirement for another season.
--May 2 was the one-year anniversary of former Chargers linebacker Junior Seau's death. "He always came with that same positive attitude," Chargers president Dean Spanos said. "Everybody saw that. That is why they respected him so much."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "If it's not, I'm quick to adjust. I'm quick to learn. I'll learn the defense easy." -- Chargers rookie linebacker Manti Te'o on the Chargers' 3-4 alignment reminding him of the scheme he played in at Notre Dame.
NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
A closer look at the Chargers' picks:
Round 1/11 - D. J. Fluker, T, 6-5, 334, Alabama
With Philip Rivers getting sacked 49 times last year, it was clear the Chargers had to beef up their line. When unable to get one of the top three left tackles, they turned their attention to this road grader who was part of three national title teams.
Round 2/38 - Manti Te'o, ILB, 6-1, 241, Notre Dame
With a glaring hole at inside linebacker, the Chargers likely found someone to start opposite Donald Butler. Did Te'o's off-field distractions cause him to drop to the second round? Maybe, and the Chargers couldn't be happier.
Round 3/76 - Keenan Allen, WR, 6-2, 206, California
Looking for another weapon for Rivers, the Chargers landed Allen. He can stretch the field and could serve as a nice complement to Malcom Floyd and Danario Alexander. He is coming off a knee injury, but the Chargers feel they have a potential playmaker.
Round 5/145 - Steve Williams, CB, 5-9, 181, California
Williams is undersized, but the Chargers think he might be able to work the slot position where he could possibly fight with Shareece Wright or Marcus Gilchrist for playing time. Williams left California a year early, so he's not only small but young.
Round 6/179 - Tourek Williams, OLB, 6-3, 260, Florida International
A Sun Belt All-Conference pick, Williams could supply a burst off the edge and could battle with former No. 1 pick Larry English for playing time. Williams had 46 tackles last year, with 14.5 being for losses and he had 6.5 sacks.
Round 7/221 - Brad Sorensen, 6-5, 229, Southern Utah
Sorensen isn't being considered as someone the team would groom to replace Philip Rivers, but as a player that might be able to push Charlie Whitehurst for the No. 2 role. He's more comfortable as a pocket passer and he threw for 23 touchdowns last year with 10 interceptions.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (11)
--RB Jackie Battle had but 95 carries as his role was to be the lead blocker for Ryan Mathews and excel in short-yardage situations. Battle did have three of the Chargers' four rushing touchdowns and it remains to be seen if coach Mike McCoy will want a true fullback in his offense.
--CB Chris Carr's return is iffy, depending on what the Chargers do with Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason. Carr can also return kicks, but the Chargers aren't in a need there.
--G Tyronne Green might get more money elsewhere, which could lead to him leaving. Green was a solid backup, but as a starter, his weaknesses were often exposed. If someone offers him starter money, he is likely gone.
--LB Gary Guyton was signed late in the year when the Chargers suffered a string of injuries. Hard to say if he returns, but he could, if the team needs to build its depth.
--C/G Rex Hadnot was brought in for depth, but ended up starting. If the Chargers address needs along the offensive front, Hadnot could be hard-pressed to get an invitation to return.
--CB Quentin Jammer is not expected to return. With his age and declining skills, the longtime Charger is probably done in San Diego.
--S Corey Lynch played well when Atari Bigby went down. He had a knack for being around the ball and seemed to prove to the Chargers that he has a nose for the football and can shine on special teams.
--TE Dante Rosario could be the benefactor with Randy McMichael released. Rosario has good hands and can block, and with Antonio Gates getting older, Rosario could see his playing time increase.
--WR/KR Micheal Spurlock was an AFC special teams player of the week and returned a punt and a kick for touchdowns in consecutive weeks. Spurlock should stick.
--G Reggie Wells was brought in when injuries wrecked the front line. He could return in a backup role.
--LB Demorrio Williams is expected to be brought back after showing his knack for making big plays. Hard to believe, but Williams had twice as many touchdowns (two) as Ryan Mathews did last year. And Williams had another one wiped out because of a penalty.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--WR Seyi Ajirotutu (not tendered as RFA) has shown enough in his Chargers stints to at least get to camp. Whether he makes the team or not will be decided.
--RB Curtis Brinkley (not tendered as RFA) could be out, as he's had numerous chances to prove his worth to the Chargers and has not been very impressive.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
--WR Danario Alexander: RFA tendered at $1.323M with no compensation); $1.323M/1 yr.
--RB Ronnie Brown: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--WR Richard Goodman: ERFA; $630,000/1 yr.
--K Nick Novak: Potential UFA; terms unknown.
--LS Mike Windt: Potential RFA; 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Deon Butler: Not tendered as RFA by Seahawks; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--CB Derek Cox: UFA Jaguars; $20M/4 yrs, $5.25M SB.
--T King Dunlap: UFA Eagles; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--FB Chris Gronkowski: Not tendered as RFA by Broncos; terms unknown
--G Rich Ohrnberger: UFA Cardinals; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--CB Johnny Patrick (waivers Saints).
--TE John Phillips: UFA Cowboys; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--T/G Chad Rinehart: UFA Bills; terms unknown.
--RB Danny Woodhead: UFA Patriots; $3.5M/2 yrs, $1M SB.
--DE Jarius Wynn: UFA Titans; terms unknown.
--LB Antwan Barnes: UFA Jets; $4M/3 yrs, $900,000 SB.
--S Atari Bigby (released).
--CB Antoine Cason: UFA Cardinals; $1.5M/1 yr, $600,000 SB/$1M guaranteed.
--NT Aubrayo Franklin: UFA Colts; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--T Jared Gaither (released; post-June 1 designation).
--NT Antonio Garay (released).
--DE Vaughn Martin: UFA Dolphins; $4M/2 yrs, $750,000 guaranteed..
--TE Randy McMichael (released).
--LB Shaun Phillips: UFA Broncos; $1M/1 yr.
--LB Takeo Spikes (released).
--G Louis Vasquez: UFA Broncos; $23.5M/4 yrs, $5M SB/$13M guaranteed.