Revenge is a dish best served cold

In a game the San Diego Chargers almost have to win, one of the key factors has taken a vow of silence. It is their last game before heading on the road to play at two tough venues, Indy and Cleveland. A loss here would put them in a position where they would have to win on the road.

"We have to stay on top," said linebacker Steve Foley. "There's no time for us to sit back and relax. We have to stay on a roll and if not, someone is going to come in here and play the spoiler."

Over the last few weeks the Chargers have been dangerously close to taking losses. And in the NFL, no game can be taken for granted. Throw in a team battling for their playoff lives and the intensity increases.

Head coach Marty Schottenheimer continues to preach about focus and not looking ahead and this will test the resolve and resiliency he is certain his team has.

There is motivation in the Chargers locker room as two former Bucs want to make a statement. One isn't talking to the media, Keenan McCardell, but he has plenty of people who will talk for him – on both sides.

Some downplay the significance of facing their former teammate:

"Obviously, we know Keenan is a great competitor and a superb receiver," Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks said. "We respect his skills and he knows what type of defense he is going to play against. It goes beyond all individual matchups, we are facing them as a team."

McCardell's silence this week is deafening. It is likely that he has nothing good to say about his former team and known for nothing but smiles since he has come to San Diego he prefers to keep those emotions in check.

His veteran leadership is clearly missed in Tampa and a 6-0 record since joining San Diego has proven his worth.

"Keenan (McCardell) is a good friend of mine," cornerback Brian Kelly said. "I wish he was going out to the sideline playing for us. But you know the situation is the way that it is. We had some fun times out on the practice field. So I'm sure we will have some fun on Sunday."

What he has done since joining San Diego is open up the game for several other players to step up. Eight and nine men in the box is a rarity with Drew Brees able to progress through his reads and find an open man. Those pockets in the defense are created with the help of the veteran receiver.

McCardell is coming off his worst game as a Charger – having two uncharacteristic drops but it is his work on and off the field that has the Chargers believing they brought in another high character team player – despite what the Bucs would deem a checkered past.

"Tremendously," tight end Antonio Gates said when asked if McCardell has been a positive influence. "He helps me with different coverage. His playmaking ability has taken the load off everybody. He is a teacher and a playmaker."

His lesson this week is to not get wrapped up in all the hype. There is a game to be played on Sunday and the goal is still the same – don't just make the playoffs but wrap up the division and make a statement.

On the field, McCardell has proven to be a valuable commodity. His 28 catches through six games rank him fourth on the team, four behind a player who has had the benefit of being in all 12 games, Eric Parker.

For all the talk of his off-field persona, it is what he does in the game that distances himself from the rest of the pack.

"He creates separation as a route runner," Schottenheimer said. "He understands how to get open. He is very sure-handed and a guy that has a lot of confidence."

That confidence is now permeating through the locker room.

As another former Buccaneer, Roman Oben, put it, "As a professional you have to take your job seriously and when you are playing for something in December, those last four games are going to set you up for January."

In other words, don't get caught up in all the drama and just play the game.

Denis Savage can be reached at

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