Breaking in the Quarterback

The San Diego Chargers made a calculated move to let go of Drew Brees this off-season and hand the reigns over to Philip Rivers. After months of waiting, Rivers finally has a chance to show his mettle.

If it looks like an NFL quarterback and acts like an NFL quarterback, then it better quack like an NFL quarterback. Sound check, please, Philip Rivers.

The Chargers kicked off their training camp last week, breaking in a new starting quarterback as they gun for their first playoff victory since 1994.

Rivers takes over for Drew Brees after waiting patiently in the background. But it was clear from the first practice that Rivers doesn't shy from being the new sheriff in town.

"You approach it like a starter even when you're not," Rivers said. "But there's something different about it when you're there, you have a little different perspective."

Rivers' vista isn't very clouded. Brees is in New Orleans, and the distance between Rivers' starting competition -- A.J. Feeley and Charlie Whitehurst -- is considerable.

Despite the fact Rivers has never started an NFL game and has thrown but 30 NFL passes, he doesn't worry about the responsibility thrown onto his shoulder pads.

"That's just my style and personality and that's how I lead, vocally," Rivers said. "You certainly do it with work on field and I did it to a certain point before. I knew when you couldn't go too far when you're a backup and I certainly wasn't going do that when Drew was here.

"But now that the opportunity's mine, I've been able to express things a little more, whether it be a route or an adjustment or a catch or a throw or something I feel like I certainly can chime in more than I did in the last couple of years." Rivers does more than talk a good game. The way he handled himself the past two years endeared him to his teammates.

"He still worked, no matter what," wide receiver Eric Parker said. "It wasn't his decision (on not playing). He just controlled what he could do and everything has fallen into place for him.

"A lot of people would have complained, but he's just tough. That is why he is going to be successful on the field."

Trouble is -- he wasn't on the field much. Coach Marty Schottenheimer isn't discouraged by Rivers' lack of game experience.

"He is far from being a rookie player," Schottenheimer said. "The thing that stands out about him is he's got excellent instincts about football. There are some people who have an intuitive ability when it comes to making decisions in football."

Added Parker: "He is just a good person and that's very important," Parker said. "If you are a standoff guy, you are not going to have the same respect and love shown toward you. He is just a very good person, in addition to being a great football player."

The potential to be a great football player, Parker might add. But until Rivers achieves that status, he will act the part if nothing else.

Still, his act is a lot different than that of Brees, who used his words with economy.

"Drew is a great leader," Rivers said. "I think the one thing is we both lead in different ways and there's different ways that work. But I took a lot from Drew's leadership: the way he prepares is probably the biggest thing I took from him. He always took a lot of pride in preparation, but he definitely had a routine and was as good as I've ever seen at preparing from week-to-week."

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