Bolts Fire Lofton and Simon, Hire Joiner

Before the Chargers could start massaging their roster in the offseason they kicked two assistant coaches to the curb. Wide receivers coach James Lofton and running backs coach Matt Simon were fired with a year left on their contracts by head coach Norv Turner.

Lofton, whose 16-year playing career landed him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, had been with the Chargers six seasons and was popular among the players.

"I was stunned by the news," Lofton said after meeting with Turner. "Just days removed from playing in the AFC Championship Game and the guys at my position played well the second half of the season and down the stretch. It's disappointing, very disappointing.

"(Turner) said he wanted to go in a different direction. It's his prerogative. I believed he feels like he's doing what's possibly best for the team."

Turner wasn't available for comment, but Wednesday the team brought back Charlie Joiner, whose coaching career began with the Chargers as receivers coach.

The Chargers head into the offseason after their most successful season since 1994. They won their first playoff game since that season and advanced to only their fourth AFC Championship Game in team history. That they fell to the undefeated Patriots didn't go down easy, but the sadness was lessened to a degree in that they played the Pats tough despite a gimpy Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, and LaDainian Tomlinson not seeing the field after aggravating a knee injury in the opening series.

So the season was an uplifting and that is saying something after the way it started.

The team took its time getting used to and buying into what Turner was selling. The Chargers lost three of their first four games and sat no better than at .500 with six games to play.

But the Chargers took a Tomlinson meeting to heart midway through the year and got hot toward the end, steaming into the playoffs and being able to beat the Titans at home then upset the defending world champion Colts at Indianapolis.

So this team grew by leaps and bounds and that is even more impressive considering the upheaval at the coaching level and how the team stumbled from the gate.

The thinking is the Chargers are going to be one of those teams that is a perennial playoff team - as long as Tomlinson stays healthy anyway - and that one of these years it will break through to make its second Super Bowl.

"We know we are a great team," defensive end Luis Castillo said. "And we will do some great things in the future."

If so, maybe the recent past will be looked back on as a turning point. Some key Chargers showed their grit by playing in New England and the Chargers felt like they delivered their supreme effort.

"We went out and gave everything we got," linebacker Shawn Merriman said. "We put everything on the line and we fell short."

But the upside for this squad remains big.


--QB Philip Rivers had his torn ACL repaired with a surgery on Wednesday and will soon embark on a rehabilitation process which figures to take four-six months. "I'm not looking forward to the rehab necessarily," Rivers said before the operation." You look back at the guys who have gone through the same thing, Carson Palmer being the most recent. He came back even better. I don't have any doubt that I'll be good to go when the season rolls around."

--The Chargers filled one coaching vacancy when bringing back former Chargers WR Charlie Joiner to replace the first James Lofton. "Charlie brings to our staff 21 years of NFL coaching experience, 18 years of Hall of Fame playing experience and, maybe most important, vast experience with our offensive system," Turner said. "That combination is rare and we're fortunate that Charlie was available."

--The team voted these players for their club awards: Tomlinson MVP and offensive player of the year; CB Antonio Cromartie (defense), Kassim Osgood (special teams), Kris Dielman (lineman), Philip Rivers (inspirational) and Carlos Polk (inspirational).

--Some Chargers fans were still wondering why Norv Turner ordered a punt when down by two scores with about 9 minutes left at the Pats 36. "Fourth and 10? Because, again, as I said, they had a pressure package, they came off the edge, they got us on third and 10, we made the decision with nine minutes ---- we had the ball against Tennessee (during the regular season) down 14 points with 10 minutes and scored twice."

--Rivers said there was no moral victory playing the undefeated Pats tough. Even without the services of the Tomlinson for the majority of the game.

"I don't think it makes you feel any better or worse either way," he said.

--The Chargers figure to be a player in the free-agent market, just not a big player. GM A.J. Smith has proved every offseason that he prefers to address team needs through the draft.

--The Chargers have but one first-day draft pick this year - their No. 1 pick - after peddling the second-rounder for WR Chris Chambers and the third-rounder in the package to obtain S Eric Weddle last year. They could be awarded a third- or fourth-round compensatory pick for losing LB Donnie Edwards in free agency during the '07 offseason.

--Golfer Phil Mickelson echoed many other Chargers fans at the Buick Invitational when he said about the season his favorite team just completed: "I think they had a good year," Mickelson said. "If they would have scored in the red zone, they could have won that game. But I really thought they had a good year."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "L.T. is a competitor and if there was any way he could've been out there with us, he would have been. For anybody to criticize him is disappointing to hear." - LT Marcus McNeill on people questioning Tomlinson toughness for not playing more in the AFC title game.


The Chargers' medical staff got a jump on the offseason with Philip River having his torn ACL in his right knee repaired just three days after guiding the Chargers in the AFC Championship Game loss to the Patriots.

Rivers' injury - and the estimated six-month rehabilitation time - might have them give backup Billy Volek another look.

Volek, though, is heading off into free agency and would no doubt like to see if he can land a starting job - with a starter's salary - somewhere. But the Chargers are keeping that door open with Volek. They will let him test the market and see what's out there and at what price.

The Chargers are hoping to avoid surgeries to LaDainian Tomlinson and his sprained MCL in his left knee and defensive tackle Jamal Williams, who had a chronic high ankle sprain for nearly all the season. The early thinking is both injuries will heal themselves with offseason rest.

The Chargers also need to hire a new assistant to replace Matt Simon (running backs). Indications were that Turner was going to move quickly in filling Simon's spot.

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