Quarterback politics begin

The Chargers quarterback dilemma took a hit when Drew Brees tore his labrum in the season finale. If they hoped to parlay Brees or Philip Rivers into high draft picks, that plan has been put on the backburner, much like Brees?

In what will become a high stakes game of cat and mouse, the Chargers are hoping for the best but the term open competition may just take on a new meaning if Brees is retained.

The early prognosis from the organization is they will find a way to retain Drew Brees.

A long-term deal, however, is out of the question.

The Chargers can use the "exclusive" franchise tag, which would mean Brees is not allowed to sign with any other team or the "non-exclusive" franchise tag, meaning Brees would be free to sign elsewhere and while the Chargers would retain the right to match, they could also part ways and receive two first round draft picks as compensation.

They could also take a riskier move and place the transition tag on him. That gives the Chargers first right of refusal to match an offer given by another club within seven days or lose his rights without compensation.

According to one Chargers official, both scenarios have already been discussed.

But, the Chargers won't do anything until they hear more regarding the extent of the damage.

"As has been indicated, there is a tear to the labrum and no involvement of the rotator cuff," said head coach Marty Schottenheimer. "When they go in with the surgery they will be able to tell us exactly where they are."

Until that time, many are forced to draw their own conclusions. The problem is even after the surgery the masses will likely be kept in the dark as the news stays close to the vest. Rest assured, a rosy picture will be drawn but don't expect the whole truth to come out.

The Chargers can't afford to have it leaked that the injury is worse than they feared. It cuts down on whatever option they still hold.

"I have every reason to believe Drew will be back at 100-percent," said Schottenheimer.

He did leave open the realistic possibility of a competition and talked as if Brees had already signed on to come back in 2006.

"There is always an open competition in my opinion - like the tailback!" Schottenheimer said with a grin. "My expectation is that Drew is going to be fine but we will have to wait and see.

"We will look at it from a competitive standpoint - is it the Brees we know and I expect it will be."

And he did not leave out the other important aspect of the quarterback situation – Philip Rivers.

"The wisdom of our decision to keep Philip proved to be important," added Schottenheimer.

The importance has never been greater. Rivers will come into the year with his eye on the starting job and depending on the health of Brees may just win out. Even if he doesn't, he figures to play a prominent role in the 2006 season.

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