One Chargers player will remain off the field for the rest of the season.
Defensive tackle Tenny Palepoi was placed on the Reserve-Injured list Monday, two days after fracturing his foot in practice. It was a tough blow for Palepoi, who was added to the roster last year as an undrafted rookie and ended up playing in some capacity in all sixteen games, giving the defense some much-needed depth on the line.
“This is the part of the business that sucks,” head coach Mike McCoy said. “Truly. A guy that works as hard as he has… He’s one of the guys who is here all the time. He’s made the most of every single opportunity he’s had. He had an outstanding year last year, and it sucks that he got hurt. It’s just unfortunate.”
Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Luther Robinson was added to the roster in Palepoi's place. Robinson started the 2014 season on the practice squad before being activated and appearing in five games for the Packers. He was placed on the Reserve-Injured list in early December with a calf injury.
Running back Melvin Gordon was a full participant in Monday’s practice after taking a rest day Sunday -- Gordon said he used the time to "get his body right" -- but several players stood on the sideline: Cornerback Brandon Flowers, defensive tackle Ricardo Mathews and three starters from the offensive line: center Chris Watt, left guard Orlando Franklin and right guard Johnnie Troutman.
McCoy indicated they would return when ready -- maintaining that “bumps, bruises and rest days” are all part of camp -- and used the time to praise players who filled the void.
“In the secondary and the offensive line, I think those two units especially stepped up and had an outstanding day of practice,” McCoy said. “They took a lot of snaps, but there’s only one way to get in football shape and that’s to go out and play the game the way it is in pads. It’s a great opportunity for a lot of new players, or younger players, to get a lot of quality work.”
He stressed the importance of position flexibility, something that’s been an emphasis since he took over as head coach in 2013.
“Understanding the system and knowing what we’re going to do, it’s important,” he said. “We’re going to move guys, we’re going to rest guys, there’s days you’re going to come out here and a lot of guys will be out. We’re going to rotate certain guys in and out of certain groups and see who can do what. You’ve got to know a number of different positions. Your chances of playing increases in certain positions if you know more than one spot.”
One player who's seen an increased number of reps in the past few days is offensive lineman Joe Barksdale, who played for the Rams before signing a one-year contract with the Chargers in May.
"He’s done an outstanding job," McCoy said. "He made some mistakes in the offseason progam, but he’s made the most of every opportunity. You see his position flexibility. He’s been playing guard or tackle throughout. He’s going to make some mistakes, especially when he’s in there with Philip [Rivers]. Philip plays extremely fast and he’s going to change calls."
Tuesday, players will get their first day off.
It’s a day to rest their bodies and their minds from the grind of camp, although the reprieve doesn’t come without some reminders.
“They represent the Spanos family and the Chargers,” McCoy said after Monday’s practice. “You get some time off, but be smart. There’s nothing wrong with getting away from it for a day, but just do the right thing and take care of your body. You’ve got a lot of time. Take advantage of the time. Young players, stay in your books. Go back and watch some extra film. Watch what the veterans are doing.
"[Players] deserve this break," he added. "They’ve worked extremely hard. But we’ve got to get better every day. You can’t take a step back Wednesday."
Monday’s practice was spirited, feisty – even chippy, at times -- which is the way it gets as camp winds on and players get sick of hitting one another (and instead, want to put their hands on an opponent).
“We’ve got to become a physical team, so we’ve got to grind it out,” McCoy said. “It’s all part of training camp.”
The team will return to the practice field Wednesday afternoon.