Norv Backs Cottrell, Praises Joiner

Among the rule changes from the recent NFL owners meetings was one which defensive players -- and coaches -- applaud. Like the quarterback on offense, a defensive player will be equipped to receive communication from a defensive coach through a helmet headset.

The vote was 25-7 in favor of the rule change, with all seven of the negative votes coming from head coaches with offensive backgrounds.

But Chargers coach Norv Turner, the noted offensive guru, wasn't among those pointing a thumb down. And that solicited a thumb's up from Chargers defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell.

In 1994, quarterbacks were fitted with a communication system placed in their helmet.

"It was made easy for the quarterbacks years ago," Cottrell told the Chargers official Web site. "We didn't have that luxury on defense. You want things to be on a level playing field and the offense had that distinct advantage in communication. The defense was always a couple of steps behind the offense."

Only one defensive player on the field at a time will have the helmet system. He will be designated, like quarterbacks, with a circular green sticker affixed to his helmet.

Cottrell said that will avoid the laborious process of signaling with his hands to a player, then him relaying it to his defensive teammates.

"The signal-caller is going to get the call and get it out to the rest of the defense a lot quicker," Cottrell said. "That will give the guys a few more seconds to think about their assignments and get lined up. It's going to be so much easier to communicate."

It will also free up some time in the practices leading up to the games.

In the past, teams have been forced to switch their signals so they wouldn't be deciphered by their opponents. That is especially true with divisional opponents seen twice a year.

But even with the new communication system in place, there will still be hand signals sent out once the offense shows its alignment.

"You're still going to have to have some communication after you give the signal in case they want to make an audible check," Cottrell said. "It's like on offense when you see the quarterback make a set of adjusted signals with his hands. We'll still use hand calls for those situations. With the radio in the helmet, it's going to make it a lot easier to get started without signaling it in. I'm really happy they made the change."

CB Cletis Gordon
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty


--The team was awarded a fifth-round compensatory pick, the 166th overall, for losing LB Donnie Edwards in free agency last year.

--Restricted free agent LB Marques Harris and exclusive-rights free agent CB Cletis Gordon signed their one-year contract tenders for the 2008 season. Harris, in three years, has supplied decent depth and done well on special teams. He played in 15 games and started two at outside linebacker, recording 1.5 sacks and eight special teams tackles last year. He joined the team in 2005 as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Southern Utah State.

Gordon saw action in 14 games, mostly on special teams, where he recorded eight tackles. Gordon joined the Chargers in 2006 as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Jackson State. He could make a run for the nickel role this year with Drayton Florence moving on to Jacksonville as a free agent.

--Right tackle Jeromey Clary received $253,015 through the NFL's Performance-Based Pay system for lower-salaried players based on playing time. Clary made the Chargers' roster last September as a reserve, but started nine regular-season games, including the final eight as well as all three playoff games. He beat out Shane Olivea; Olivea as released during the offseason.

--Coach Norv Turner is looking forward to new receivers coach Charlie Joiner having an impact with the team's pass-catchers.

"When (offensive coach) Ernie Zampese came to the Rams, all our training reels to teach certain routes were of Charlie," said Turner, recalling his time on the Rams staff. "I thought I knew him then and, since then, have certainly gotten to know him. He brings great expertise in terms of the knowledge of the position and a great experience and background coaching in this league."

--Defensive tackle Jamal Williams had knee surgery recently; the team released no other details.

--Wide receiver and special teams ace Kassim Osgood is among 12 players selected by CBS broadcaster James Brown and the NFL Players Association to receiver a "JB Award" for his contributions to the community.

--LB Shawne Merriman is among nine celebrity judges for the 2008 Miss USA pageant, which will air April 11 on NBC.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Normally it will be an every-down player, which for us is (Stephen Cooper). He stays in on third down a lot. He'll definitely be the guy wearing it for us." -- Defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell on which Chargers defensive player will wear a head set in his helmet.

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