Morale and Politics

Mike Scifres has been active for three games so far in the 2003 season for the San Diego Chargers. He has been active for the last two entering this weekend's game against the Green Bay Packers. His view from the sidelines, and yes he is on the sidelines lending support even when he is inactive, is unique. He sees the field, "depending on who is in front of him," and has a beat on this team heading into the final three games of the season.

Deflecting questions regarding next season, Mike Scifres is maintaining focus, for himself and his teammates.

"Right now the mindset is to finish off this season. Get done what needs to get done for this season and not look towards next season. Next season is not here yet. Everyone in the locker room is getting guys on the right track to finish this season."

What the team envisions is finishing the season strong. After a win last week in Detroit they feel they can win the remainder of the games and finish the season with respectability and the foundation for 2004.

"I think the morale is pretty good. Everybody is upbeat. Nobody is happy with the outcome of the season, but we still got three games to play. That is the focus right now for everybody to come out and perform these last three weeks and make the most of it.

"We set out a goal to win four in a row. We have one under our belt. Now our goal is to win three in a row."

Winning out will require a win this weekend against Green Bay, a win in Pittsburgh, and the finale against Oakland at their home away from home, Qualcomm Stadium.

While all three teams are in what has to be considered down seasons, none are a cakewalk, especially if you are the San Diego Chargers. Green Bay is currently fighting for a spot in the playoffs and may provide the fiercest test, even if the game is held in San Diego.

Scifres has his convictions and believes in the mantra. It starts with the coaching. Hard to believe after a 3-10 season the players will believe anything. They still do and are giving their all.

"I think we can win out. That is everybody's focus – to win these last three games. I don't see any problem doing it. The group of guys we have – we have the talent – there is no question we have the talent. If we do what we are supposed to do and execute."

Scifres doesn't sound like someone who would use the word execute – ever. We had to find out if he ever used the word before.

"Nope, never. Marty says it all the time. I never said it before. I caught myself recently, and it is funny because other guys have done the same thing. You catch yourself saying things that you wouldn't normally say."

Marty Schottenheimer has been here it seems. He said this week that he was not sure why the learning process has taken so long, but here is concrete evidence that it is starting to stick like snow in New England. The team is accepting what he teaches and that is a great sign for this franchise.

They just need to settle the office politics that threaten to bring the team down. As of Friday morning, no decision has been made on which quarterback will start, Drew Brees or Doug Flutie. Instead the cat and mouse game is being played. The Chargers barely have enough healthy receivers for this choice to even matter. But it does and it is a threat to a team that has played better after the Denver massacre.

Does the team care?

"I think the guys are going to play for whoever is in there.," says Scifres. "I don't think it is that big of a deal. We still have to go out and execute no matter who is back there. I don't think that it matters."

The truth may be different under the surface, but the team must prepare to play however they can.

A win this week will give them three wins against the NFC North, and two against winning teams. It will also mark the second December win in as many weeks. Considering they only have two since 1999, maybe it will be a sign of things to come.

"I am pretty pumped," Scifres said. "I can't wait."

If it proves to be a loss, he may retract that statement, but until then, he is a rookie in the NFL. What better situation could he be in?

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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