Notebook: Hayes In, Cooper Done

The Chargers finally decided they couldn't wait for Stephen Cooper any longer, placing the inside linebacker on injured reserve and signing fellow ninth-year veteran Gerald Hayes to take his place.

Stephen Cooper originally wasn't invited back by the Chargers, but then was re-signed Aug. 12, only to suffer a torn biceps late in the preseason. He convinced the front office not to place him on injured reserve at the time, but the team decided Tuesday that it couldn't afford to hold his roster spot any longer.

Hayes was released by Arizona shortly after the lockout ended in late July. He had been working out in Arizona and received a few calls, but he told the San Diego Union-Tribune that the other opportunities "didn't look that good to me."

Then San Diego called with a one-year offer and the opportunity to back up Takeo Spikes at the inside "Mike" position.

The Chargers are on their bye week, giving Hayes two weeks to up-ramp on the defense before being thrown into a game situation.

"It's a good opportunity right now being able to get signed (during) the bye," Hayes said. "It gives me an opportunity to know what's going on."

Chargers' Schedule Only Gets Tougher

The Chargers have a 4-1 record, first-place digs in the AFC West and a week off to get the feet up on the couch.

Ah, life is good in San Diego.

"It hasn't been an easy 4-1, and I think that keeps you focused and critical of yourself," quarterback Philip Rivers said.

As usual, Rivers, the son of a high school coach, is right. While the Chargers enjoy their position, they realize there's work to be done in the three days of practice during their bye.

The team's red-zone woes are considerable. The pass protection needs some work. The run defense is showing leaks. The ability to close off seemingly inferior opponents has yet to show itself.

Yes, the Chargers are 4-1, but those four wins have come courtesy of the Vikings (1-4), Chiefs (2-3), Dolphins (0-4) and the Broncos (1-4).

Not exactly a 1985 Bears in the bunch. And while that might diminish the Chargers' quick start, it doesn't erase it.

San Diego's schedule gets tougher after the bye. In the Chargers' mind, they have much room for improvement, so coach Norv Turner has plenty on his to-do list.

Most important is that the time off will give the Chargers a chance to exhale while letting the ailing get better.

The Chargers limped to the bye with running backs Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert sustaining injuries in Sunday's game. Then there's wide receiver Vincent Jackson's cranky hamstring which got tested -- maybe too much -- in Denver.

Others are in various stages of their rehabilitations -- tight end Antonio Gates being the most critical -- and this down time will accelerate their comebacks.

Turner hopes to be nearly at full strength when the Chargers next play, Oct. 23 against the Jets.

He's also hoping the areas that need to be cleaned up have a new shine when the team gets back in action.

Rivers Likes Team's Results Better than His Stats

Quarterback Philip Rivers isn't thrilled with his play, but he's not complaining about his team's record. "Well, it's going to all come together at some point," said Rivers, who has nine turnovers (seven interceptions) and six touchdown passes.

"Honestly, I know I keep saying it, but we're 4-1. That was the only goal we had coming (to Denver). I think if you told us September 11 you'll be 4-1 at the bye, we'd say, 'We'll be 5-0, we're going to try and be 5-0.' But we've won four of five."

--With more wins comes more confidence, and when the tough sledding starts after the team returns from the bye, that increased belief should serve the Chargers well. "I think everyone on this team believes in each other," fullback Jacob Hester said. "We don't care if we're pretty or not, we're 4-1."

Hester made sure of that by contributing a career-high 47 yards on 11 carries at Denver. He was switched to running back during the game, after injuries to Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert.

--Among the Chargers' shortcomings has been their lack of success in the red zone. That showed again Sunday when the team scored but one touchdown in four red-zone trips. The Chargers are among the worst in the league inside the opponents' 20, producing touchdowns only 40.9 percent of the time.

"I'd like to get touchdowns, but we seem to have that one bad play that takes us out of that position," coach Norv Turner said after San Diego settled for three field goals against the Broncos. "That will be a major emphasis for us over this next week."


--RB Mike Tolbert suffered a concussion Sunday, but early indications are it won't keep him from the Chargers' next game. Tolbert's touches have gone down with Ryan Mathews starting to emerge as the featured back. Before getting hurt, Tolbert did have five carries (24 yards) and three receptions (25 yards).

--WR Vincent Jackson was trying to get to the bye without seriously compromising his strained hamstring. Jackson got out of the Denver game OK, although he is really welcoming the week of rest. Jackson had three catches for 34 yards Sunday.

--WR Malcom Floyd has been slowed with a groin pull that he was trying to nurse until the bye. Floyd had the Chargers' only touchdown catch Sunday, and he finished with 100 yards on just three catches. Floyd and WR Vincent Jackson supply the deep threat that stretches defenses.

--TE Randy McMichael gets an atta-boy for his work Sunday. Filling in for Antonio Gates, he caught a team-high four passes for 29 yards. But when a rash of injuries hit the backfield, forcing Jacob Hester to switch from fullback to running back, McMichael slid over and filled the fullback's job.

--ILB Donald Butler has shown why the Chargers were so downbeat after he blew out his Achilles tendon in camp last year, forcing him to miss the season. Butler recorded his first NFL interception Sunday and has usually been in the right spot at the right time this year, his first as a starter. Butler also had four tackles and a pass defensed Sunday.

--SS Steve Gregory continues to start after Bob Sanders was forced to injured reserve with a knee injury. Gregory can cover the range, although he's not the physical presence that Sanders was; few are. Gregory, though, was a no-show on Sunday's stat sheet with zero tackles on a day when the defense allowed 162 yards rushing.

--K Nick Novak has been a find after Nate Kaeding went on injured reserve with a knee injury. Novak has hit all 11 of his field-goal attempts for the Chargers, and his five field goals were the difference Sunday.

--WR/PR Patrick Crayton is seeing more action when the team goes to three wides, and it seems as if QB Philip Rivers is looking his way more. Crayton was targeted twice Sunday, catching one ball for 10 yards. His best punt return, a 29-yarder, was significant.

--RB Jordan Todman could be active against the Jets after he was a healthy inactive the first five games. Coach Norv Turner got caught short on running backs when Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert went down Sunday. That might cause Turner to carry an extra back against the Jets.

--DE Luis Castillo isn't going to return until at least November. Castillo is out with a broken leg.

--OLB Larry English remains a backup, as he couldn't build on his two-sack game leading up to the Denver game. English did have two tackles, but he didn't get any sacks or quarterback hits. Travis LaBoy remains the starter.

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