Whitehurst Seizing His Opportunity

SAN DIEGO - Charlie Whitehurst was overjoyed when informed earlier this week that he would be the No. 2 quarterback this season.

But now, as he prepares to make his first pro start Friday night against the 49ers, it's hard to imagine he's still feeling so elated.

Why?

Well for starters he will lead an offensive unit with only one starter expected to play.

That starter is Marcus McNeill, the one-handed rookie tackle who will be protecting Whitehurst's blindside. In addition, Whitehurst still must play well to justify the team's decision to cut A.J. Feeley, its only veteran passer.

While some would cower from the aforementioned setup, Whitehurst sees only opportunity.

"I guess I will play a lot of the game and I am very excited about that," he said.

Most rookie quarterbacks are excited when they get the chance to play. Unfortunately, that excitement can lead to happy feet and rushed decisions. Whitehurst, however, is confident he can excel if called upon this season. "I will be ready to play," he said. "I can perform when my number is called and am very confident in that."

Of course, quarterbacking the Chargers offense is confidence-generating gig. Being able to throw an outlet pass to LaDainian Tomlinson or a quick-hitter to Antonio Gates is a luxury that shouldn't be taken for granted.

"There are definitely some weapons on offense with LT and Gates and the receivers," Whitehurst said. "If I were to play I would definitely have an opportunity to play well."

That's all well and good, but those weapons will be nothing but overpaid cheerleaders in San Francisco. What will help Whitehurst survive there is that pass-catching targets Malcom Floyd, Greg Camarillo and Ryan Krause each will play, and each will play desperate in his attempt to make the roster.

While Whitehurst's roster spot in not in jeopardy, he should be playing desperate as well. A rough showing tonight could prompt the team to hit the waiver wire in search of a veteran who could back up Rivers until Whitehurst is more game-ready.

That may not be necessary though, as the former Clemson signal caller has displayed a sense of comfort in his elevated role that belies his rookie status.

And with his teammates supporting him and his coaches believing him, he knows the sky is the limit.

"It is nice for the coach to show confidence in what you do and like the work you have been doing," he said. "It does not change my preparation at all. It is not the end for me. It is just the start."

The first start of that start will come tonight. The pressure is on.

For Whitehurst's sake, he better be too.


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