Antoine Cason Savors Delayed Gratification

Cornerback Antoine Cason is happy he stayed put. He's even happier he's in San Diego. The Chargers' recent top draft pick toyed with the idea of ditching the University of Arizona after his junior year. Cason felt he was ready for the NFL and predicted he would have gone in the first round. Some told him otherwise.

"I bet it wouldn't have been before the third," said Mark Stoops, the Wildcats' defensive coordinator.

Antoine Cason smiles. He's sticking to his guns.

"I still think first round," Cason said. "I would've ran good (in the 40-yard dash) and I played good. They say if you play too much football, sometimes it hurts you because you get over-evaluated. A lot of juniors coming out can't get over-evaluated."

But the Chargers looked just as hard and after kicking Cason's tires determined he was the fit for a secondary which could feature three No. 1 picks with their top three cornerbacks.

Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer are the starters and have that top-round pedigree. Cason, if he can beat out Cletis Gordon for the nickel role, would be the third No. 1.

"Antoine made himself a first-round draft pick just with his work ethic," Stoops said. "He came into our program from Day 1 with a good attitude. He was humble, worked hard and tried to correct his mistakes every day."

That's among the qualities the Chargers noticed from the Jim Thorpe Award winner, which goes to college's top cornerback.

In his fourth season as an Arizona starter, he intercepted five passes and scored four touchdowns -- two on pick returns; the others on punt returns.

When waving so-long to Tucson, Cason's 15 interceptions were the fourth-most in team history.

Cason is fortunate to land with the Chargers, as he won't be looked on as a defensive savior right off the bat. If he can settled into the nickel role and earn his stripes there, the Chargers will be happy.

Just like Cason is pleased to look out on the Chargers' practice field and see Cromartie and Jammer.

"It's just a great opportunity for me to come and play behind two great corners," Cason said. "Just to have this opportunity, I'm so excited. I'm at a loss for words -- speechless."

LS David Binn
Jaime Squire/Getty


--The Chargers continue to maintain their focus on a new stadium remains on Chula Vista, a suburb which is about 15 miles south of downtown San Diego. But there is also chatter that the team could explore, at some point, the new stadium proposed up near Los Angeles.

--The team will have the first of its voluntary 15 offseason coaching sessions starting on Monday. The Chargers usually have a good turnout for each of these low-key practices.

--LS David Binn will return for his 15th season after signing a four-year deal. The team estimates that Binn has had but one poor snap in 14 years.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson has been busy this offseason shooting commercials. He did one for Campbell's Soup and a local hospital in San Diego County. "I really enjoy doing these things," Tomlinson said. "It's fun and it gives me a chance to do something different. I can just have fun and be myself with it. I'm not trying to be an actor. Football is number one. It's just something I can do and I enjoy doing them."

--The club estimated some 7,100 fans came to the recent three minicamp practices. The Chargers' backers next shot at seeing their favorite team will be at training camp, starting July 25.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We know it's going to be a long road, and I wouldn't expect him to be back doing things until we get to (training) camp." -- Chargers coach Norv Turner on when Pro Bowl TE Antonio Gates might return from his toe injury.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--RB Tyronne Gross (not tendered as ERFA).
--OT L.J. Shelton: FA Dolphins; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Derek Smith: FA 49ers; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--OT Jeromey Clary: ERFA; terms unknown.
--WR Malcom Floyd: ERFA; terms unknown.
--CB Cletis Gordon: ERFA; terms unknown.
--CB Steve Gregory: ERFA; terms unknown.
--LB Marques Harris: RFA; tendered at $1.47M; terms unknown.
--DT Brandon McKinney: ERFA; terms unknown.
--G Scott Mruczkowski: Potential RFA; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--QB Billy Volek: UFA; $9M/3 yrs, $3M SB.
--CB Drayton Florence: UFA Jaguars; $36M/6 yrs, $12M SB.
--S Marlon McCree (released).
--FB Lorenzo Neal (released).
--OT Shane Olivea (released).
--K Dave Rayner: Not tendered as RFA/Dolphins; terms unknown.
--RB Michael Turner: UFA Falcons; $34.5M/6 yrs, $15M guaranteed.

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