Chargers Begin to Answer Questions

And so it begins. The Chargers lifted their curtain on training camp, hoping the work done in the summer pays off better than it has the last two winters.

A winter of gloom has ascended on even San Diego after the team didn't qualify for the playoffs for consecutive years. A team which was often mentioned in the Super Bowl conversation has fallen on mediocrity, showing but a 17-15 record the past two years, as the team was 8-8 last year in again finishing out of the postseason picture.

So some old faces were allowed to go elsewhere: wide receiver Vincent Jackson, Tampa; running back Mike Tolbert, Carolina. Plus All-Pro left guard Kris Dielman retired and Pro Bowl left tackle Marcus McNeill was deemed unable to play because of a neck injury.

So the roster got a big ole' shakeout, and it's obvious when viewing so many new Bolts working at camp.

"I think this will be the most competitive camp we've had since I've been here," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "There are a lot of good football players, 1-through-90, and there are a lot of guys competing."

In Rivers' eyes, the players pushing each other can only benefit the Chargers.

"That's what will help must us the best team," Rivers said. "The guys that end up here at the end of the camp that form the roster at Week One, they're going to be a heck of a group, and we're due to have a lot of great players and great competition."

But not only do the newcomers have to shine, but the returners as well.

Can running back Ryan Mathews continue his development?

Can Rivers bounce back from season that while it must be noted he threw for 27 touchdowns and 4,000 yards, he had an eye-opening 25 turnovers.

Can tight end Antonio Gates stay healthy on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

FS Eric Weddle
Jake Roth/US Presswire
Can free safety Eric Weddle build on is first All-Pro season?

Can the three returners on the offensive line - center Nick Hardwick, right guard Louis Vasquez and right tackle Jeromey Clary --- compensate for the absence of Pro Bowlers Kris Dielman and Marcus McNeill?

And can coach Norv Turner, who was given a reprieve after last season's disappointing season which underscored him producing but one playoff win in four years, finally get the Chargers to where management long ago promised he would take them?

Questions, questions and more questions at the Chargers' camp. It's a place where once positions, and virtually the entire roster, were determined before the first summer snap.

But no more, as the team tries to rebound from a dreadful, two-season run.

"It's going to be exciting," Turner said. "Our goal as the coaching staff is to do everything we can to pick the 53 guys that make this the best football team. If any guy can contribute to this team at a high level, then we have to consider him."

Considering all of the Chargers' changes, good luck predicting where this team will finish. But before getting there, there has to be a start. And the Chargers have kicked off what should be one of the most competitive camps in recent history.


Minor injuries to Mathews following car accident

--Chargers running back Ryan Mathews suffered minor injuries in a two-car accident in San Diego on Monday night, according to U-T San Diego.

Mathews lost control of his BMW and hit another vehicle, according to the California Highway Patrol. He appears to have been driving too fast while entering Interstate 8, but the High Patrol does not believe drugs or alcohol were involved.

He was taken to the hospital to be examined after complaining of pain. No one in the other car was injured.

Mathews watched Tuesday's practice but did not participate.

--Quarterback Kyle Boller's stint in San Diego didn't last long: one practice. After that, he decided to retire. The Chargers had enticed Boller, who lives locally, back to the game but he decided it was no longer for him. Boller was brought in when Charlie Whitehurst sprained his knee. The speculation was Boller felt he wouldn't be given a fair shot at the No. 2 job when Whitehurst returns. "We had a great conversation and (Boller) was very sincere in everything he said," coach Norv Turner said, "but I'm not going to speak for him."

--The Chargers' ticket sales are down and they are doing their best to build them for all their home games. Hence, if wanting to purchase a game ticket for Peyton Manning and Broncos' visit in October, a patron must also buy a ticket for the Sept. 16 home opener against the Titans.

--The pads are being brought out for some practices, and that is a good thing for the big guys up front. "It makes the game easier for an offensive lineman," rookie center David Molk said. "There are more angles to control, and helps you play lower and establish leverage. It just felt right."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We know what we're in for, and we haven't won the division in two years. Regardless of what changes have been made in the division, we have to take care of us, and that starts right now." -- QB Philip Rivers, on the addition of Denver's Peyton Manning to the AFC West and what it means to the Chargers.


--RB Ryan Mathews, if nothing else, is in better shape than he was this time last year. At the 2011 camp, Mathews raised many eye brows by not being able to complete the first workout's conditioning session. Mathews has showed well, so far.

--WR Malcom Floyd is often overlooked when people speculate how the team will overcome the loss of Pro Bowl WR Vincent Jackson. Part of the reluctance to embrace Floyd comes from his inability to avoid injuries. With Jackson gone, it's imperative for the Chargers for Floyd to stay fit.

--TE Antonio Gates continues to look as healthy as he has been in years. His troublesome foot, which has caused him problems in the past, seems to be cooperating well early in camp.

--The team released DE Luis Castillo on the eve of training camp. Castillo, a former first-round pick, missed most of last season with a broken leg. The Chargers feel their depth is such that Castillo was no longer needed.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Kicker Nate Kaeding is showing that he is all the way back from his knee injury, which cost him all but one game last season. Kaeding has announced that he is 100 percent and ready to resume his job as the team's primary kicker. He must first prove that he is a better option than Nick Novak, the man replacing him last year.

ROOKIE REPORT: Strong safety Brandon Taylor is working with the first team, but that is more because of Atari Bigby being down. Still, Taylor is making the most of his chance. ... Defensive tackle Kendall Reyes has shown he could contribute sooner than many believed. He's had a good camp, and that was underscored when the veterans reported and he still fared well. ... Linebacker Melvin Ingram is getting most his work with the second team. But the first-round pick could see some more action, still mostly with the second team, with Larry English being out with a strained hamstring. ... Center David Molk has found a friend and mentor in starter Nick Hardwick. Molk is going out of his way to soak up whatever Hardwick can tell him.


--QB Charlie Whitehurst (knee) is out for an estimated two weeks.

--LT Jared Gaither continues to miss practice time; earlier it was for cramps, now it is an undisclosed strain. Gaither is expected to return soon.

--OLB Larry English (hamstring) has already missed a handful of workouts; he should return this week. He possibly needs a strong camp to make the team.

--SS Atari Bigby (undisclosed strain) missed Saturday's practice; it isn't considered serious although the club is playing coy on what is injured.

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