Chargers training camp: Inside the helmet

One intriguing aspect of San Diego Chargers camp is the dialogue that occurs on the field as practice is in full swing. The coaches are the most vocal with their constant badgering of the troops, attempting to drill assignments into the players' heads. The players, meanwhile, are cheering each other on and it was most prevalent during a drill the offense ran with a football attached to a rope.

What could a football attached to a rope possibly accomplish? The rope was really a bungee rope that could be stretched out with great exertion. One end of the rope was tied to a wall while the other end had manifested itself to a football. The goal – don't drop the ball.

Sounds easy enough.

Not so. Each offensive skill position player had to take the ball, lock it under one arm and run towards cones that were spaced out. The further they ran away from the wall holding the bungee rope in place, the more strain that attempted to pull them back.

Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron referred to it as "The Turnover Drill" and it became clear why.

With the ball literally being ripped from the arm of the carrier it was a tough drill to perform. At the height of the strain, the player struggling for inches would be pulled into a torrid backpedal that they had to recover from, keep their feet and yes, still keep hold of the rock. If this was any indication of what two-a-days will be like everyone is in trouble.

As you might imagine, the cheers were plentiful. Everyone was cheered on as the trudged out from the wall and grinded their way to three cones set about ten yards from the wall.

Oh yeah – and then there was the small task of giving the ball to an official when they were done.

LaDainian Tomlinson was one of the first to attempt the drill and his cheers were relegated to a purr when he easily bested the turnover drill, as if there was any doubt. One nodding teammate simply yelled, ‘too easy.'

Others came and went with moderate success but nary a ball was dropped and all were seemingly going to the referee.

Coach Cameron then made a comment that turned up the stakes. "This is the most important drill you will do today, right here."

It was after that comment that the folly began. Micah Ross got pulled back after making his rounds so ferociously that the ball got dislodged to the grimaces and "oohs" of his teammates. Minutes later newcomer Jeff Chaney didn't hand the ball cleanly to the official and it touched turf.

After those two plays, the rest of the group buckled down and when the bell sounded, the relief was evident.

The yelling and praise from the coaching staff had yet to begin. Several players were hoisted into the spotlight.

Marty Schottenheimer was not shy with praise. He reveled in it. When a player made a quality effort or stop, Schottenheimer was quickest to applaud.

"Sammy, great job staying in your backpedal. Great job trusting it."

The praise was delivered to Sammy Davis because he stayed with Eric Parker on a route that was 20 yards deep and just missed an interception.

Hanik Milligan was both chided and praised in the span of two plays. Milligan left his responsibility on the line of the punt team to take gunner Robb Butler which left his responsibility in the middle with too much room. Milligan came back on the next play and timed it better to make sure he had coverage on the inside and left only when Butler was close to push him out wide.

Kassim Osgood had a ball poorly thrown in his direction on a go route along the sidelines. Instead of adjusting to a ball that he had no chance getting, Osgood devoted his efforts to knocking the ball away from Drayton Florence who had a beat on it.

Schottenheimer immediately ran over to Osgood to give him a pat on the back and say, "Great job saving the turnover."

Terrence Kiel felt some wrath during punt drills when he left his responsibility blocking along the line to go after the punt returner. Coach Crosby made sure to show him the correct place to be and when to leave.

The doghouse award went to Omari Hand. Hand, making the transition from defensive end to linebacker, lost his lane positioning on a running play and got the harshest critique of the day:

"Hand, what the (expletive) are you doing," Linebackers' Coach Greg Manusky screamed.

All in all, it was a good day in Carson. Marty Schottenheimer was pleased with the tempo displayed during the first day of camp. The one name he mentioned at the end of practice was Drayton Florence. It was the same name he mentioned during mini-camp.

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net

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