Chargers sign three; Turner, Ball, Hardwick

The San Diego Chargers have signed fifth round pick Michael Turner, a running back out of Northern Illinois, Nick Hardwick, a third round pick out of Purdue, and Dave Ball, a fifth round pick out of UCLA, to three year deals.

Nick Hardwick has a chance to open the season as the team's starting center. With Jason Ball a no-show at camp, Hardwick is poised to start.

Hardwick was a walk on to Purdue and was supposed to play along the defensive line. Hardwick started in just 20 games for Purdue, a rude awakening for a player who barely had time to read the playbook.

"I really just wanted to sit on the sidelines and it turned out that here I am getting a chance to play in the NFL," Hardwick said.

Michael Turner was viewed as a bargain when the Chargers selected him in the fifth round of the 2004 NFL Draft. Although the Bolts possess LaDainian Tomlinson, they had been seeking a backup to take some garbage carries away from their superstar. They believe they have that in Turner.

Turner is a two-time All-America selection. He rushed for 1,915 yards as a junior (2002) and 1,648 more as a senior (2003) finishing second in the nation in rushing in each of the last two seasons.

The 5-foot-10, 237 pound back was chosen 154th overall by the Chargers and will work out on special teams in addition to his backup duties.

Perhaps the strangest stat of all from Turner is that he is left-handed. But on the football field that has meant nothing. Like his new mentor, Turner rarely fumbles. He has lost the rock just twice in his last 508 rushing attempts.

Dave Ball led the nation in sacks with 16.5 in '03 en route to earning Pac 10 Defensive Player of the Year. eclipsed the previous best of 12.5 that former Bruin and fellow Charger Donnie Edwards had back in 1994. Ball now owns the single season mark in UCLA annals.

Ball was equally impressive as a junior, hauling down 11.5 quarterbacks and he is looking forward to his new role in the 3-4 defense.

"I am sure I need to pick up every aspect of my game," Ball said. "It is not going to really be a problem. I just have to focus on learning new techniques and I am sure when I get into camp we are going to have to focus on the run as much as we are the pass. We are going to have to pick up that area.

"It will be different playing a 3-4, but you just have to learn to adapt and I can adapt pretty well."

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