For the Chargers, it's almost an annual tradition, with quarterback Philip Rivers, running back LaDainian Tomlinson, cornerback Quentin Jammer and second-round pick quarterback Drew Brees among those who missed parts of their first training camps. But minicamp? Every first-round draft pick participated in his team's first post-draft workouts this year -- except for Chargers defensive end/linebacker Shawne Merriman.
Merriman's agent, the often controversial Kevin Poston, advised his client to skip the team's minicamp when the Chargers declined to change the wording in the language of the minicamp agreement.
"In 16 years, we've never had a client hold out of a minicamp," Poston said. "Unfortunately, the language of the minicamp agreement is not standard across the league. In fact, we only requested the Chargers use the exact same language as another team, and they declined."
"He's firm and we're firm," Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said. "So I guess what we're talking about is him missing all this valuable time. That's the disappointing part of it. I respect his position and obviously he respects ours, but unfortunately, our player is not here."
So Merriman will certainly be behind when -- and if -- he arrives at training camp. The offseason provides an opportunity for rookies to work out with veterans, learn their new schemes and get acclimated to the professional environment.
For 49ers first overall draft pick Alex Smith, the first minicamp was a chance to throw his hat in the ring of the team's quarterback battle. The quicker he learns the complicated playbook, the better his chance of being the 49ers' opening day quarterback.
"I'd like to bring him along quickly," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "I'd like to see how much he can handle. I don't want to determine myself what he can and can't handle. I want him to determine what he can and can't handle. By giving him a lot, we'll learn what that is."
"I didn't want to do that Jerry Rice kick where I'm floating," said Seau, referring to the future Hall of Fame wide receiver who has played for Oakland and Seattle since leaving San Francisco. "This is going to be my last stop."
A token signing by the San Diego Chargers is definitely not out of the question for a man who epitomized defense through the nineties. It just wouldn't be right if he retired any other way.
Seau had received feelers from other teams, including some like Kansas City who are seemingly closer to being a Super Bowl contender than the Dolphins. But Seau has established a comfort level in South Florida since being traded from San Diego in 2003.
"There were talks with other teams wanting the old man," said Seau, 36. "It was nice to hear. But I didn't want to go to another place and start over in the locker room. I wanted to go with the whole atmosphere of knowing where I was going. They know me here as a player, as a person."
Seau admits to contemplating retirement before he decided to continue playing.
"Golfing in San Diego, it's pretty hard to leave that," Seau said. "Everyday I think about retirement. This game of football is not meant for human beings to play a certain amount of years. I'm in my 16th years and I've had a great, great career and whatever happens after that, we'll pray about it. But right now, I'm a Miami Dolphin and I look forward to that."
Flutie, 42, acknowledged that the relief role might be the one for which he is best suited at this point in his career.
"I think, although I've had success as a starter at times, I really believe that my best role is coming off the bench. I really have had success in games where I've come off the bench to relieve a guy that's either struggled or got banged up. It's a good change of pace for the other team, especially without the opportunity to game plan. I look forward to that role."
"They're not going to let me do it," Nolan said. "I wish they had, but it's a no go."