Chargers Eager for Game Time

With the preseason opener less than 48 hours away, the Chargers second-stringers received first-string playing time during Friday's practice. Those reserves will get the bulk of the snaps on Sunday. The linebacker corps was looking lean, as two starters sat out practice. One is expected back in time for the showdown with the Seattle Seahawks, while the other is not.

The linebackers were missing 500 lbs. of force at Friday's training camp session. Shawne Merriman was absent from practice and Matt Wilhelm missed as well. Wilhelm strained his calf muscle during Thursday's practice and will miss the preseason opener on Sunday.

Despite the weight loss, the linebackers were in typical form, hyping the crowd and one another. No group is more ready to hit someone in a different colored jersey.

It appears the Chargers are also susceptible to the common cold , as Antwan Applewhite sneezed repeatedly during warm-ups, receiving a polite "bless you" from talkative teammate Carlos Polk, who was back in the training camp grind after sitting out Wednesday's practice.

Darren Sproles took the majority of the team's punt returns. The explosive third-year player is battling Craig Davis for the right to be the starting punt returner. Davis was held out of Friday's practice.

Full-squad drills followed the special teams work. Charlie Whitehurst and the third-team offense started things off, the second-year quarterback hopes to give Billy Volek a run for his No. 2 job.

Whitehurst's first play was a handoff to Tyronne Gross, a second-year player from Eastern Oregon. Next, Whitehurst hit Rich Musinski for a big gainer down to the 10-yard line. He then finished the drive with a touchdown toss to Kelly Griffeth.

On the next drive, Mike Warren gained big yardage up the middle on a defensive miscue. The drill's first incomplete was a pass intended for the rookie tight end Scott Chandler, which was broken up by Anthony Waters.

Still in full-squad mode, the first-team offense took its turn. Philip Rivers handed off to LaDainian Tomlinson on the first play, which ended with L.T. galloping down the right sideline.

Next, Kassim Osgood made a tough catch down at the 8-yard line. Malcom Floyd used his 6-foot-5 frame to make the subsequent touchdown catch look simple.

Both the reserves and the starters were given 15 final plays at the end of practice. Rookie safety Tra Battle picked up an interception on an errant pass by Whitehurst, ending the afternoon for the back-ups.

In the first-team offense's period, Rivers threw old dog Lorenzo Neal a bone, and the 15-year veteran pummeled through the line of scrimmage. Rivers then used Osgood, Brandon Manumaleuna, Floyd, and Michael Turner to direct his team downfield on a scoring drive.

Igor Olshansky and Erik Robertson both missed practice, but were working on conditioning and strength training on the sidelines.

Lightning Quick: Michael Kranzler is providing exclusive coverage from Chargers Park at

SD Super Chargers Top Stories