Exclusive: Jason Murphy battles a friend

A.J. Smith has made it known that his goal is to build a roster 3-deep at every position, and to let the ensuing competition bring out the best in everybody. Despite his best roster-stocking efforts, he somehow failed to sign an established interior offensive linemen this offseason. Jason Murphy, an undrafted guard from Virginia Tech, sees that oversight by Smith as an opportunity for himself.

"I noticed there are a lot of guys on the inside of the line that haven't been around [the league] for a long time," said the 6-foot-2, 300 lb. Murphy. "They're out here competing the same way I am."

The opportunity for playing time is what led Jason Murphy to ultimately sign with the Chargers. After the draft he was being pursued heavily by both the Chargers and the Seahawks, and had former teammates pulling him in both directions.

"Seattle drafted Darryl Tapp, and he was trying to get me to go there, and then San Diego drafted Jimmy Martin, and he was trying to get me to go with him," Murphy revealed.

Murphy followed Martin - the second of the Chargers' seventh-round draft picks - and now the two have gone from teammates to competitors. Although Martin played tackle in college, the Chargers have moved him inside, and now he and Murphy are competing for the last reserve spot on the interior line.

"It's an awkward situation," Murphy said. "I know him and he knows me. It's just business now."

Murphy began his career at Virginia Tech as a defensive lineman before switching over to offense, where he started at guard each of his final two seasons. He is still learning and improving at the position, and realizes that part of the business is the endless pursuit of self-betterment.

"I know I have to stay in the playbook and keep working on different technique things, like keeping my hands in and things like that," Murphy said.

Although he has a lot to learn, Murphy noted he is fortunate to have a great teacher in new offensive line coach Jack Henry.

"I like him a lot," said Murphy of Coach Henry. "He's a strict guy who stresses fundamentals and demands your best effort on every play."

With an old teammate by his side and a new coach pushing him to succeed, Murphy is looking forward to an exciting 2006 season.

"I want to be on the field this year, and I want to contribute," Murphy said. "I understand the reserve situation, and I've been used to being the starter, but there are other ways to contribute besides being a starter. Whether I make the 53-man roster or start out on the practice squad, I just want to get on the field this year and help this team win."

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