NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - INSIDE SLANT
Year Two of Camp McCoy has arrived at Chargers Park, and quarterback Philip Rivers might just embrace a repeat of Year One.
The Chargers opened training camp on Thursday, their second under coach Mike McCoy, and what does Rivers do for an encore?
McCoy's up-tempo offensive approach was among the reasons Rivers had a phenomenal 2013 season. He completed nearly 70 percent of his passes, gained more than 4,400 yards through the air and heaved 32 touchdown passes.
But improving on those numbers really isn't the quest.
"I think's it's to try and win more than nine games and find a way to reach your ultimate goal," Rivers said. "But shoot, I would like to throw for 70 percent completion again, but that is not all that I'm trying to get done. You just want to keep fine-tuning the details and all the little things.
"Every little thing matters and it's not relaxing on anything. And I think our whole offense has that mindset that you don't get bored with the minute little things that you've done a million times because we all know that is the difference: it's a play here, a play there."
Rivers was the difference last year as the Chargers reeled off four straight wins down the stretch and watched the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens get swept in their final four games. That put the Chargers into the playoffs for the first time in four years, and it's a destination Rivers seeks again -- and then some.
"We got a lot of younger players but we've got a veteran group that has played a lot and now feels like we have played a lot together," Rivers said. "We couldn't say that last year."
Not with the offensive line being rebuilt, a new weapon in running back Danny Woodhead and a receiving corps relying on a rookie in Keenan Allen. And that speaks to how much more advanced Rivers feels he is, not only in McCoy's offense but with the team in general.
"I feel like we've played a long time together," Rivers said. "Even though it has been only a year you feel that confidence when you've had the game experience and some of the ups and downs we dealt with."
Rivers is as optimistic as he is a realist. Entering his 11th season, he knows he likely has more yesterdays than tomorrows.
"I'm excited this year but I'm not necessarily more than any other when I thought we had a chance to be a really good team," he said. "I may be a little more excited just because I'm further along in my career. I think over the last few years you realize you're not going to do this forever. I never have taken it for granted, but I think us veteran players know we're probably closer to the end than we are the beginning."
This season got started Thursday on a hot San Diego July morning. The Chargers are hoping it doesn't end until a warm February night in Arizona.
"I don't want to win (a Super Bowl) more now than I did seven years ago," Rivers said. "I don't think you try any harder but you just enjoy every element. You just appreciate what we get to do. We're just a bunch of young men that get to be on a team and play football. So I think it's just appreciating the heck out of that."
Players report: July 23
First practice: July 24
Camp ends: Aug. 16
NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - NOTES, QUOTES
--Tight end Antonio Gates, who missed the offseason workouts, practiced in the opening camp session. Gates spent time with Pamela, his 22-year-old sister this offseason who was suffering from lupus. She passed away on the eve of training camp's first practice.
"It's always good to be back to have that camaraderie and chemistry around the guys," Gates said. "You don't have to be a football player; no one is immune to trials and tribulations of life. When it happens it's just something you have to deal with. Life goes on, for the most part. But at the time, dealing with it, I felt being with my family was the right thing to do."
--There were a group of players that avoided the physically unable to perform list, proving what the Chargers had said about most of them all along -- that they would be ready for camp. Those avoiding PUP and working at some level during the opening session were cornerback Jason Verrett, the team's first-round pick this year, outside linebacker Dwight Freeney (quad), tight end John Phillips (knee) and tackle Michael Harris.
"It feels great," Freeney said. "But it's early and it's one of those injuries where time is going to tell."
Verrett looked good, playing at right cornerback.
"I'm happy to be back there playing," said Verrett.
Among the receivers Verrett tracked was veteran Malcom Floyd.
"I've been watching guys like that since I was a kid," he said.
--Marion Brice has done what a good rookie does: give up his number. With the Chargers signing cornerback Brandon Flowers late in the offseason, Brice had already been assigned No. 26, the digit Flowers prefers. So Brice, a sixth-round pick, relinquished the number and switched over to No. 28.
--Training camp is about winning roster spots, overall, and claiming positions, in particular. Among the areas where the most spirited battles should take place are at right guard, kick and punt returner, outside linebacker, cornerback and defensive line. The last three spots are players fighting to add depth to those positions.
"Right now there is a depth chart, but that is just a starting point for where we are in the season," coach Mike McCoy said. "We're going to play the best guys and let all those guys compete."
--When your franchise has quarterback Ryan Leaf on its list of former players, it's impossible to say outside linebacker Larry English was the worst first-round pick in team history. But English, a reach when then-general manager A.J. Smith surprised the draft gurus by reaching for English, out of Northern Illinois, in 2009, was released before camp. Smith passed on Clay Matthews, a future NFL Defensive Player of the Year, in favor of English. But English had mixed success, and that's being kind. He exits the Chargers known more for his various injuries instead of his career sack total of 11.
--Another Smith blunder was shown the door before camp got underway. Inside linebacker Jonas Mouton, a 2011 second-round pick, was cut. Mouton was also challenged to stay on the field and had but one tackle in his time with the Chargers.
--Nine of the camp practices at Chargers Park are open to the public.
NFL Team Report - San Diego Chargers - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--RG Jeromey Clary was placed as the physically unable to perform list as he continues to rebound from offseason hip and shoulder surgeries.
--G Johnnie Troutman started nine games at left guard last season when starter Chad Rinehart was sidelined, but this summer Troutman is setting up shop at right guard. With Clary on the mend, Troutman has been the first guy up to run with the first team at that spot.
--CB Brandon Flowers was new to the team but that didn't prevent coach Mike McCoy to having him line up as the starter on the left side from the get-go. He often lined up in the slot for the Chiefs last season while dealing with a sore knee.
--DE Damik Scafe continues to be on the tips of coaches' tongues and he'll be worth watching going forward after being injured last year.
--DT Sean Lissemore is playing with the first unit.
-- WR Malcom Floyd continues to run smoothly and looks good after missing most of last season with a serious neck injury.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--WR Danario Alexander (not tendered as UFA).
--ILB Bront Bird (not tendered as ERFA).
--RB Ronnie Brown (not tendered as UFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--CB Jason Verrett (1/25): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Jeremiah Attaochu (2/50): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--G Chris Watt (3/89): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--NT Ryan Carrethers (5/165); 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--RB Marion Grice (6/201): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Tevin Reese (7/240): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Seyi Ajirotitu: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB Donald Butler: Potential UFA; $51.8M/7 yrs, $11.15M SB/$12M OB 2017.
--CB Richard Marshall: UFA; $855,000/1 yr.
--G Rich Ohrnberger: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--G/T Chad Rinehart: Potential UFA; $6M/2 yrs.
--S Darrell Stuckey: Potential UFA; terms unknown.
--ILB Reggie Walker: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--QB Kellen Clemens: UFA Rams; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--ILB Kavell Conner: UFA Colts; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Brandon Flowers: FA Chiefs; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--CB Brandon Ghee: UFA Bengals; $1.65M/2 yrs.
--TE David Johnson: UFA Steelers; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Derek Cox (released).
--LB Larry English (released).
--WR Lavelle Hawkins: UFA Buccaneers; terms unknown.
--FB Le'Ron McClain (released).
--CB Johnny Patrick (released).
--G/C Steve Schilling: Not tendered as ERFA/Seahawks; terms unknown.
--DT Cam Thomas: UFA Steelers; $4M/2 yrs, $1M SB.
--QB Charlie Whitehurst: UFA Titans; $4.25M/2 yrs, $1M SB/$2M guaranteed.