McNeill Refuses to Rest on His Laurels

The Chargers' Marcus McNeill is looking to rebound -- from a season that landed him in Hawaii? How can someone reflecting on a Pro Bowl season say, "It was definitely a rough year for me."

Here's another NFL mystery: How can a left tackle standing 6-feet-7, 336 pounds be anonymous to rivals?

"My first year, no one knew me," Marcus McNeill said. "My second year, everyone was gunning for me and that was a big change."

The change in McNeill's play was obvious only to the trained eye early on. While ecstatic over his rookie season, McNeill took a step backward last season -- until improving down the stretch.

"It got better later on in the year as I matured more and more," McNeill said. "But that is one thing early in this season that I don't want to get caught off-guard with this year.

"I'm definitely not sneaking up on anybody. Everybody had a lot of film on me from my first year. They aimed at a lot of my weaknesses and that is what I'm trying to do, minimize the weaknesses I had in my game."

McNeill was eager to stay on top of his game and among the elite players at his position.

"It never really just flipped from one day to another but I definitely could feel myself focusing more later on in the season, working with coaches before and after practice," McNeill said. "It was late in the season when a lot of people are tired and really just want to go home and get rest.

"But I realized that I still needed a lot more work so I continued to push it further on in the season. I kept on maturing the last part of the season and on into the playoffs."

The Chargers' playoff run fell just shy of the Super Bowl, but not because of McNeill.

"We all make some mistakes and give up some plays but he is in a position at left tackle that's got binoculars on it," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "Any mistake he makes is magnified.

"I thought he really, really turned it around late in the year. He just bared down and was just absolutely a wall over there on that left side."

LaDainian Tomlinson said McNeill got right after experiencing something most players get hit with. Tomlinson said the second-year blues visit numerous youngsters after a colorful rookie season.

"Obviously he had a great first year and I think he was expecting to carry that over," said Tomlinson, who's claimed consecutive NFL rushing crowns behind McNeill. "But we faced a couple of tough teams and people challenged him in a different way.

"Sometimes we may think it is easier the second year than the first year. But it is going to be harder because people know who you are at that point."

McNeill got the point.

"He understood that, he got that and he didn't regress at all, which was good, and he continued to get better," Tomlinson said. "So this year I'm expecting him to really dominate people."

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