Excitement begins anew for Chargers coach

Training camp is about to begin and San Diego Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer is excited to be back. After taking some time off, the coach is well-rested for the upcoming season. Given the strength of the schedule, he will need to draw on all the energy in his reserve to defend the AFC West.

"It is time to go back to work," Marty Schottenheimer opened up his pre-training camp speech with. "And I am excited about the season."

He should be excited – at least for now. The Chargers come off a 12-4 season, an AFC West Championship and a playoff berth. While the loss certainly stung, it is part of the process and evolution for a team to endure.

This year, the Chargers are hoping to take the next elusive step.

Before they can think about the playoffs, a daunting schedule appears before them.

"We have quite a challenge," the coach admitted. "The schedule is a difficult one. Arguably it is the as tough a schedule as I have faced."

Seven of the 16 games on the docket bring playoff teams from 2004 into the equation. And that doesn't include the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs who have considerably remade their rosters.

Harking back to last year, the Chargers went 1-5 against teams, including the playoffs, that made it into the extra season of play. They lost to Atlanta, Denver, Indianapolis, and the Jets twice, including the playoffs. Those losses accounted for the total amount of L's they acquired on the year.

While Schottenheimer admitted the schedule provided a challenge, he also stressed the importance of keeping it in perspective.

"My feeling about the schedule is you have to look at the opening game of the season and take them one week at a time," he said. "Let's take care of this week."

If they do make the playoffs in 2005, don't expect the Chargers to fall down again.

"If you qualify for the playoffs having played a strong schedule, it prepares you as you move forward into that competition."

There was no bold proclamation from Schottenheimer. Unlike the "push" year and the guarantees of playoffs in 2003, the coach remained cautiously optimistic.

Who knows what will happen over the course of a 16-game season. No one gave the Chargers much thought last year and teams that look tough before the season could become tame when the games begin.

"It is hard to predict where you might go," Schottenheimer said. "Injuries play a huge role. Those are things you have to find a way to work your way through. It is hard to find quality replacement players if you run into a streak of injured guys."

If there was every a year the Chargers were prepared to face the hard luck injuries that are inevitable in this grueling game it would appear to be this year.

"I don't think there is any question we have more depth," Schottenheimer added.

Is that enough to warrant their inclusion in the postseason? It is a question better asked at the end of training camp.

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