The Late Season Collapse

One thing we need to take an early look at is the San Diego Chargers training camp. Last season saw the "Oklahoma Drill" front and center and fans jostled for position to watch it. That Saturday was among the highest attended practices in the Chargers 2002 offseason. All the local papers covered it, and Chargers Update was there snapping pictures and "oohing" and "ahhing" along with fans. What was the price San Diego paid?

There has been a fairly consistent youth movement of late in San Diego. Marty Schottenheimer has committed to it. During training camp last season the players went through some grueling practices, regimented, precise and with little rest.

During the season the Bolts paid dearly with numerous injuries on both sides of the ball. Players get into shape during camp, but could it have been they were hurting before the season began?

Rookies dotted the Chargers roster in 2002 and the same can be expected in 2003 where Coach Schottenheimer expects 8-10 rookies to contribute. Yet rookies may have the toughest time adjusting to the lengthened schedule. Add all the practice time in and the mental anguish of learning the playbook and it is not such an easy life. Aren't they the most susceptible to the rigors of a full season?

So how do the Chargers get over that hump resulting in continued late season collapses?

The trend needs to be changed now. Last season more players were put on injured reserve within the first few weeks of the season than ever before. Three players were placed on IR in August. Three more prominent players were on IR by the first week of October.

Most of the injuries surfaced during training camp and the preseason. Does this mean they were out of shape coming into camp? Perhaps it does, but more prevalent is the hard practices they had to endure throughout the preseason.

Injuries happen in football, it is inevitable. Would the Chargers as a team be better served from some lighter practices instead of the "Oklahoma Drill"?

The stats point to yes. In November and December the team looked tired and played tired. The offensive line, full of 300 pound behemoths, was ravaged with injuries. Ankles could no longer hold the weight of a season that never ends. The rigors to knees took its toll on the big guys, and the whole team suffered.

When you have a 2-6 end to a season, after a 6-2 start, it is not hard to point to fatigue as an issue. Sure there were other factors involved, but why not take out the element of preseason as a contributing factor?

Work on getting the players into game shape but throw out the drills that will wear down the players. Don't be easy on them; just give them the benefit of having some down time. The Chargers want to be in the playoffs this year, start it out right with fundamentals teaching. The first lesson on July 22nd should be to conserve some energy for the long run by having a preseason built around preserving and harnessing that energy. Championships are won in December and beyond. Let's help the team make it to that point.

Denis Savage can be reached at or via the following link: Denis Savage

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