Cason Ready to Push for Nickel Back Role

Cornerback Antoine Cason missed but three days of the rookie camp working out a contract. The less he missed, the better.

Antoine Cason, the Chargers' top pick, has a shot of getting some significant playing time in his rookie season. No other rookie can say that in coming to a team which is returning but one starter on offense and defense.

But Cason, the Jim Thorpe Award winner as college's top defensive back last season, is presented with a grand opportunity.

With Drayton Florence fleeing to Jacksonville as a free agent, it freed up one of the most critical spots in the Chargers' pass coverage unit.

And Cason is going to be giving every chance to prove he is the guy.

But first, he had to sign, which he did on July 24 in inking a five-year, $12.1 million deal with about half of it guaranteed.

"It's a big relief," Cason said. "Of course I was concerned, but I had faith that it would get done. All I could do was work out and control the things I was able to control, and that was that. I didn't worry about it too much because I knew it would get done, so I did the things I could control."

Cason has impressed coaches with his offseason work. And while the Chargers were disappointed he wasn't in the rookie camp, it's not a drastic setback for the former University of Arizona star.

"I think that Antoine had an outstanding offseason and, as I said, I think these first three or four days really help the young guys get acclimated so they're not overwhelmed when they start camp," coach Norv Turner said.

"(But) I think that the system now where you get as much work in the offseason as we did that the mental work and the coverage work helps him in that regard."

Cason will be pushed by Paul Oliver and Cletis Gordon. But if Cason performs as expected, the Chargers' youthful secondary will get that much younger.

"I definitely think I did have a good offseason and worked hard to put myself in a position to be here," Cason said. "I just want to get out there and play well and do the things I know I am capable of doing and also learn this game a little bit more. I'm new and just want to get in and learn."

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