Roman Oben on the upcoming Chargers season

Veterans know that they too have to prepare for the season starting in March. That gives them a little more than a month off before beginning anew. Roman Oben, a leader on the offensive line, spoke with in an exclusive on the preparation that begins with the mind, body and soul for the upcoming San Diego Chargers season.

Roman Oben has been in the league since 1996. He was acquired by the San Diego Chargers in an off-season trade prior to the 2004 campaign and was immediately slotted as an anchor at left tackle.

After helping the Chargers lock up the AFC West with a 12-4 record, we caught up with Roman to talk about the offseason, or lack thereof, the preparation for the new season and overcoming adversity.

Talk about the "offseason" and what professional football players these days are expected during the months of February through June.

Roman Oben: Most teams start their offseason preparation officially in the middle of March. We have a 16-week program with a lot of running and lifting. You are allowed to do it four days a week.

Now that football is a 12-month thing – especially the teams that play deep into January, maybe you have a month off and you have to start working out again. You never really leave the game.

With the exception of teams that have new head coaches, those teams are allowed three three-day minicamps. We have one mandatory veterans minicamp in June.

Then we have some things called offseason team activities (OTA), or offseason coaching sessions.

Since you are not in pads, what kind of things do you cover in the OTA sessions?

Roman Oben: We practice and we run some plays and just start reformulating ourselves offensively and defensively along with some things they feel they might want to put in, if they want to change something offensively or introduce some new terminology.

You mentioned football has become a year long business. Was it the same when as say eight years ago when you were still learning the ropes of the NFL?

Roman Oben: I think it is the same as eight years ago. I came in in '96. Now the structure is much better now than we had eight years ago. People would come and go and depending on what type of team you are playing on, if you play in a cold, extreme weather team like Pittsburgh and some of those teams in the Midwest, they shorten down the weeks. Maybe it is 12 weeks instead of 16 and you say ‘let's have the month of May where all the football stuff picks up.'

Some of the teams that consistently go to the playoffs and the Super Bowl, the veterans don't really do too much of anything except walkthroughs and then the rookies and new guys are the guys they really work.

When did this new philosophy come about? Did something trigger the chain of events that made the offseason disappear?

Roman Oben: Structurally, when I came in the league and you go back to 95 when Jacksonville and Carolina almost went to the Super Bowl, that put the pressure on everybody. And it changed the whole format of the way things are done: the offseason, the scouting, the way head coaches are evaluated by owners. Every year there is a team that goes from 4-12 to 12-4.

We were that team last year but the season before the Carolina Panthers were two seasons removed from going 1-15. The year before that it was New England or the Jets making a turnaround.

Now every team because of free agency, the salary cap guys – good veterans getting cut and going to other teams and the June 1st cuts – all those things are contributing to every team thinking they can win the Super Bowl.

They say everything comes full-circle at some point and we will get back to the way it was played in say 1985. If the offseason hasn't changed, what has changed with how the game is played or personnel-wise?

Roman Oben: Obviously there was no Jevon Kearse in 1996. The best tight end in the league my rookie year was Shannon Sharpe and Ben Coates with New England. Those were the guys who were the best tight ends. Every team has a guy like that now. Todd Heap, (Antonio) Gates, the guy in Dallas (Jason Whitten), (Kellen) Winslow, the guy drafted out of UVA (Heath Miller) is supposed to be the next (star). Every team has got a guy like that. Those things are better. The speed of the game is faster.

Coming off a 12-4 season and AFC West Championship, what kind of advice can you offer so you don't suffer a letdown?

Roman Oben: It is not so much advice for a letdown. I think the confidence definitely improves. Everyone goes back home and you go to church and everyone says, ‘You guys are great. You did a great job. You guys are super.' Fans are still congratulating you in May and June for what you did the season before.

Every year the Chargers will face adversity. What can you do as a team to ensure that adversity doesn't derail you from the season long goal of the organization?

Roman Oben: For me, coming from a Super Bowl team that went 7-9 the year afterwards, we didn't handle – there is good adversity and bad adversity. Bad adversity is you are not a good team and good adversity is you are a good team and are expected to do it again. That is when you have to be professional about things off the field and on the field. You have to really start from scratch with techniques and fundamentals so you can play well when the season starts.

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