Never before has a new beginning been so welcome than it is right now for Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who endured a 4-12 season in 2015.
"We’re 0-0," Rivers said Monday, smiling. "That team that gathered today was not 4-12."
Rivers and his teammates participated in the first practice of a nine-week offseason program today at Chargers Park. In what is considered "Phase One," players spend time on strength and conditioning and practice without coaches on the field.
Really, it's about building chemistry.
"It’s really when it starts," Rivers said. "Yeah, we’re going to lift and run and do all those different exercises and things that you do to prevent injuries, but it really is the time that you start to become a team, and you start to develop that camaraderie and that trust and love for one another.
"It’s good to be back, to see some of the guys you haven’t seen since the last game. It’s good to get back and get going. It’s really a short period of time we have together; the offseason seems shorter and shorter as far as the work you’re able to do here together. It was good to have everybody back."
Familiar faces were on the field, including cornerback Jason Verrett and safety Jahleel Addae, as were some faces that didn't see much of the field last season because of health issues: Left tackle King Dunlap, left guard Orlando Franklin and wide receiver Keenan Allen, to name a few.
One face that has re-appeared for Rivers is new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who has returned to that position after a brief stint as head coach of the Tennessee Titans. While Rivers was quick to praise former offensive coordinator Frank Reich, he pointed out Whisenhunt's strengths from the 9-7 playoff season the team had in 2013, with Whisenhunt at OC.
"He did a great job of tying it all together, of managing the people in the room," Rivers said. "He was definitely the leader of the group."
New to the wide receiver group is WR-KR Travis Benjamin, who signed with the Chargers in March after spending four seasons with the Cleveland Browns.
"I’ll be throwing him something tomorrow morning, for sure," Rivers said. "It’s starting right now. We haven’t [thrown] to this point — I'm just getting to know him first — but we’re going to start throwing tomorrow with all the guys. He’s a guy that I’ve thrown zero passes to, but I hope I can throw him a bunch this fall and he’s going to help up win a bunch of games."