Low Ball

San Diego Chargers and offensive line. Two phrases that when paired together can leave fans overwhelmed with as much doubt and fear as a big-league pitcher facing Barry Bonds with the bases juiced and the game on the line. Will the Chargers come to their senses and have a Ball?

With the draft fixated distantly in the rear-view, the team bus approaches June mini-camps. There's some offensive lineman on that bus, just not many that people outside the Charger circle have heard of. Center Jason Ball, who is currently unhappy with his contract situation, should be along for the ride. As it stands now-- he is not. Ball wants to be paid like a starting center, and who could blame him.

"He knows how good of a player he is," his agent Peter Schaffer told New Hamphire's Union Leader. "I think he can be the best center in football. If the team wants to go without him, that's their option."

The Chargers have offered a one-year deal and retain his exclusive rights, but Ball isn't buying it. He's missed voluntary practices, and has threatened to sit out a portion of the season. This may not be the best approach. Perhaps Ball and company should remember who drives the bus. General manager A.J. Smith has proven to be a shrewd son-of-a-gun in regards to personnel decisions. He keeps one foot on the gas and one foot in the ‘ready-to-kick' someone off the bus position.

In what is becoming typical close-to-the-vest fashion, Smith told the San Diego Union Tribune: "we'll just work our way through the process." The Chargers know they need Ball to stabilize the line, but they also don't want to break the bank to sign a player coming off an injury filled season.

The Chargers drafted an athletic center in the 3rd round of the draft. Nick Hardwick, a former wrestler, is a raw player who is noted as a quick learner. Ideally, the Chargers would start Ball while Hardwick adds weight to his 295 pound frame, and gets a season of tutoring under Hudson Houck. Taking Hardwick in the 3rd round was a head scratcher initially, but it's making sense now. This move could not have been appreciated, in any way, by the Ball camp.

This is just business as usual in the NFL. Hopefully, Ball won't be expecting a Pro Bowl caliber contract offer. And hopefully, the Charger's won't try to low ball him. No pun intended. With the state of the offensive line, expect Smith to the eventually pull the bus over. Mr. Ball needs a ride, and the Chargers need someone with the power and tenacity to help keep Ted Washington from sitting on LaDainian Tomlinson.

Will Mortensen can be reached at will@sandiegosports.net

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