Backing up the anchor

Jamal Williams needs his rest. Like a bear waking from his slumber, Williams is most effective when he gets a break from the action so he can come back hungrier. Ryon Bingham, who has never seen the field during an NFL game, has the strength and skill to be the answer. Now, he has to prove it.

It's a big year for the Chargers' big defensive end, Ryon Bingham.

Last year's seventh-round pick from Nebraska didn't see the field after tearing his biceps in training camp. He spent the season on IR, restricted to basically riding a stationary bike while his teammates practice and played.

But Bingham is back on the field, and eager to earn the role of backing up starter Jamal Williams. And his health willing, Bingham is in a good spot as the team released veteran Jason Fisk in February.

"My goal is just to earn some playing time and to get out on the field," Bingham said. "I just want to contribute in anyway I can."

Bingham admits to being "rusty" on the field. But he kept his head during his rehab and is eager to prove he's up to spelling Williams.

Of course, the Chargers spent their second of two first-round picks on defensive tackle Luis Castillo. But coach Marty Schottenheimer will put Castillo at end, which could help Bingham's chances of playing.

"(Coach Schottenheimer) told me they liked what they saw of me when I was healthy, and that I just needed to keep working during the off-season," Bingham said.

Bingham is a little undersized at 6-feet-3, 303 pounds to command two blockers. Williams goes at least 350 pounds, which means it's rare when just one blocker can keep him under wraps.

Bingham was a two-year starter at Nebraska. He's familiar with bouncing back from an injury, after missing the 2000 season with a broken foot.

Dave Ball is another defensive lineman hoping to leap from IR and grab a productive role. But his path may be a bit more crowded as he plays end on passing downs, which might be held down by Shawne Merriman -- if he every shows up -- and second-year pro Shaun Phillips.

Bingham's path isn't as crowded. But first he must prove he's the player the Chargers drafted out of Nebraska.

Lightning Quicks:

Rookies will report to training camp on July 26. The first full-squad workout is scheduled for July 30. No doubt, coach Marty Schottenheimer will welcome the team back with his annual "Oklahoma Drill."

Ben Leber is still bothered by a bruised bone in his foot, and is wearing a walking cast and not participating in the offseason drills. So far, that has meant more playing time for second-year pro Shaun Phillips. Leber is expected to be fine in time for next month's minicamp.

"I'm happy to be back to 100 percent." -- Pro Bowl RB LaDainian Tomlinson, who is running without the nagging groin injury which hampered him last season.


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