Chargers press on despite no-shows

While absenteeism overshadowed the San Diego Chargers' first day at training camp, plenty of action managed to grace the plush-green football fields of the Home Depot Center. After initial warm-ups, the new and improved Drew Brees started seven-on-seven drills with a short completion to the freshly re-signed Eric Parker, who displayed his trademark quickness.

Brees' next attempt was also complete, this time a quick pass to fullback Lorenzo Neal. On the third play, Brees set his sights on tight end Justin Peelle, but the ball was thrown slightly behind Peelle and a ball-hawking Terence Kiel was there to make an impressive pick, much to the delight of his defensive comrades. Brees responded on the next play, throwing a 15-yard strike to Kassim Osgood.

If the first day was any indication, Brees seems determined to take the starting quarterback job and run with it. Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer likes what he is seeing out of the fourth-year pro. "He is on a mission. And clearly this is an important year for him," said Schottenheimer.

Doug Flutie started with an interception to second-team strong safety Vernon Fox, but completed his next two out of three, both of the shorter variety. On the interception Flutie responded: "You think you're throwing one in there, and then you kind of feathered it, and it's like ‘that didn't have a chance'. I need to pick it up a step, and let it rip."

Cleo Lemon started his training camp by completing all four of his passes, including a sideline pass that undrafted rookie Malcom Floyd had to come back for. It was another acrobatic catch to file in Floyd's short, but impressive highlight reel. The six-foot five Floyd, who admits he's still a little sore from mini-camp, felt like he had a good day.

"My first day was good. I caught a couple of passes. Me and Cleo (Lemon) were hooking-up," said Floyd, who also snatched a few passes during eleven-on-eleven drills. Floyd made a name for himself in mini-camp, but previous receivers have done the same-- only to fizzle out in training camp. So far, Floyd is all sizzle.

In special teams drills, punters Mike Scifres and Bill LeFleur took center stage. Scifres, the favorite to win the job, botched his first punt of the day, shanking the ball badly off the right side of his foot. The punt netted roughly twenty yards. LeFleur followed with a boomer that hung in the air, and it was on. Scifres and LeFleur then took turns scraping the sky, a signal that this battle is no lock. Scifres must come to play.

The day ended with the meat and potatoes. Eleven-on-elevens. With Jason Ball and Toniu Fonoti playing hooky, the first team offense fielded a surprise at left-guard. It wasn't Phil Bogle lining up between center David Brandt and left tackle Roman Oben. And it wasn't rookie Shane Olivea. If the Chargers had to play a game today, second-year player Kris Dielman would trot out as the teams' starting left guard.

"It's a big spot to fill. I know the rest of my O-line buddies are depending on me to pull my weight," Dielman said. "It's a big challenge and I'm ready for it." He is aware of the doubts surrounding the offensive line, but Dielman feels the line will gel in time. "We know that everybody thinks that (the offensive line) is the weakest spot , but were bonding, were coming together as a group. I'll think we'll be able to turn some heads."

With projected starting right tackle Courtney Van Buren relegated to riding the bike while recovering from a minor throat surgery, seventh-round draft choice Carlos Joseph, in another surprise, took the snaps at right tackle.

At receiver, Eric Parker and Tim Dwight ran with the first team. Parker snagged the first pass from Brees, using extreme quickness to beat Sammy Davis on a slant. LaDainian Tomlinson, Lorenzo Neal, Antonio Gates, and Mike Goff rounded out the rest of the first team offense.

The first team defense saw Jamal Williams at nose tackle with Adrian Dingle and Otis Leverette flanking the ends. The linebacking core consisted of Ben Leber, Steve Foley and Zeke Moreno, with second-year player Stephen Cooper filling in for Donnie Edwards, who is out for a week or two with a calf laceration. The secondary was Quentin Jammer and Sammy Davis at corner, with Kwamie Lassiter and Terence Kiel at safety.

Lightning Quicks

-Kassim Osgood drew praise on a great play in which he kept Drayton Florence from intercepting.
-Reche Caldwell dropped a catchable ball in eleven-on-elevens.
-Hanik Milligan got some lofty praise from secondary coach Brian Stewart for a pass break up.
-Michael Turner looks tough to tackle with a very low center-of-gravity.
-Carlos Joseph also worked at left tackle.
-Shane Olivea looks very compact, very powerful.
-LaDainian Tomlinson, as usual, is in mid-season form.
-When asked what position Phil Bogle prefers he said: " I'll play quarterback too, I don't care."

Will Mortensen can be reached at

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