Chargers Fan Fest 2003: Special Teams

Chargers fans came out in droves to meet and greet their favorite San Diego Chargers during FanFest 2003 at the Chargers training camp facility, the Home Depot Center, in Carson. The fans even got animated when they saw Oakland Raiders fans, booing in earnest and starting up a "Raiders suck!" chant.

One has to wonder if Oakland Raiders fans are feeling the heat this year from the competition and scouting the team they think may overtake them this year.

At least one Raiders fan in attendance kept his wit. When being booed and taunted he replied, "We don't need another version of the Clippers."

The Chargers spent a good half hour signing autographs for the fans before commencing practice. LaDainian Tomlinson was the leader in autographs signed and a long line was left wanting when the horn sounded to end the signing session.

The team broke off into their individual drills with the running backs catching kickoffs. The only caveat was Drayton Florence practicing with that group. Florence has, for the present time, been named the starting kickoff returner. It is hard to say if that was just for the preseason or for keeps. They will definitely get some looks on other guys as well.

The usual suspects of Brian Sump, Reche Caldwell, and Cedric Henry worked on catching punts in the windy confines of Carson. Kicking into the wind, Darren Bennett and Mike Scifres provided the punting and once the ball got air it swirled and changed direction before falling. Scifres, in particular, has a lot of movement on his punts. Chalk it up to the height he gets on his kicks as the air toys with the ball and the returner. One interesting move that was being attempted by the trio of returners was holding one, and even two balls in their hands, trying to catch the punt. Nobody was successful with one football in hand, nor was their attempts to catch one with two footballs in hand successful. Of note was Reche Caldwell missing one punt and Brian Sump muffing one. Henry had bad recognition on one short punt from Bennett that fell and trickled past him. One gaffe apiece and the punters traded off good punts and bad ones with neither having a clear edge.

No 67 yarders today from Scifres. "It was a little wind aided," Scifres said when we brought up the punt from Saturday. Scifres, originally from New Orleans told us he almost didn't get a chance to be in San Diego today.

Turns out Western Illinois was losing both their kickers when his high school coach told the folks at Western Illinois, "If you don't take a look at (Scifres), you are not going to have anybody."

They said, "Yeah we'll look at him."

Western Illinois was the only college to make Scifres an offer.

Look where he is now.

"Yeah, I am still out here. When I went to Western, I never thought that…," Scifres added before cutting himself short.

Here he is in the NFL, perhaps a dream so long ago, but now it is a reality.

Staying with special teams, Scifres and Steve Christie were the sole participants during kickoff drills. Mackenzie Hoambrecker, detached while signing autographs, did not even see the field today. An ominous sign.

When we asked Christie if he would hold off Hoambrecker he simply replied, "I am going to try."

Besides his regular kickoff duties, Scifres attempted two squib kicks. One went to the right and LeMarcus McDonald fell on it for the receiving team. The other went straight up the gut and was recovered by none other than Mike Scifres. Great hustle by the youngster to recover his own kick and even better tenacity to get into the mix without fear of the receiving team clobbering him.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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