Banks can wear many hats on special teams. He's returned kicks, done vice work on punt returns, and served as the gunner on the punt team. But his true aspirations lie on the offensive side of the ball.
Banks talks about the state of his game -- and that of the team -- in this one-on-one.
Michael Lombardo: You may be following a career path similar to Malcom Floyd, who spent a couple seasons on the practice squad before working his way up the rotation. Have you talked to him at all about that?
WR Gary Banks
ML: Floyd is in the starting lineup now after the release of Chris Chambers. What was your response when you heard about Chris?
GB: I found out Monday when I came in. I was surprised. Chris is a veteran guy who's been in the league a long time. He's another one of those guys, I kind of picked his brain a little bit. But you know, the organization is going to make decisions that are best for this team. We don't have to understand them, we just have to roll with it and keep getting better day in and day out.
ML: Speaking of getting better day in and day out, how are you progressing in that regard? Where have you improved most since your first year with the team?
GB: Last year, my first year here, there were some things I had to get used to like reading NFL defenses and understanding how they work, understanding the speed of the game. And No. 2, understanding how to run routes, studying different DBs and their techniques and how to play them. So just with route-running overall, I feel like I've gotten better from last year to this year.
Those are the two things right there. Just understanding defenses and understanding how teams play in certain situations: when it's third down; how they play in the red zone; when the blitz is going to come and stuff like that. That just comes from watching tape and paying attention in practice. Like I said, those two things, understanding defenses and route running [are where I've improved most].
ML: There is no defense that you see more of than your own. Talk about San Diego's defense, and in particular, converted nickel backs Steve Gregory and Paul Oliver.
GB: You see it on Sundays, you see the results of [Gregory and Oliver] going hard. I have to go against those guys. Those guys are going hard and they're competing out there and some days you don't catch balls on them. It's showing up on Sundays with Paul Oliver and Steve Gregory.
WR Gary Banks
GB: This is a special team with the talent that's here at the quarterback position, at the receiver position and at the running back position. You get excited as a receiver. You know they're going to put the ball in the air and it's not dink and dunk. They're going down the field, so yeah, it's exciting. When you see Vincent Jackson, Floyd and guys like that, Legedu Naanee, I'm just sitting here in my position like, "Man, I can't wait till my turn comes." I definitely get excited when I see it on Sundays.
ML: How much has working with receivers coach -- and Hall of Famer -- Charlie Joiner hastened your development?
GB: That's just it: He's been there, he's done it. He's in the Hall of Fame. A guy like that, when he speaks to you, you tend to listen. And that's what I do. I just soak up all the information that he has to give out there. Even in the meeting rooms, just going over different coverages. Sometimes he'll just reminisce on his days and talk about some stuff that him and Dan Fouts used to do. You sit there and you just listen to that, man, you take it all in.
He's a guy who doesn't yell and that's one of the reasons you really have to pay attention to what he says. He's a quiet-spoken guy and that's one of the reasons our receivers have been able to play so well and so relaxed. Our coach, he's relaxed and he's calm and he doesn't yell at all, so when he speaks, I definitely tune in and listen to what he's got to give.
ML: So when Charlie is talking about the legendary Fouts-Joiner connection, are you imagining a legendary Rivers-Banks connection?
GB: Definitely, definitely, you know. In my situation, I'm blessed to be here and I'm so close and that just drives me every day. When you're on a team as talented as this one is, and it's got a chance to go to the Super Bowl, everybody is out here motivated. That makes you come out here and take your game up an extra level because everyone's out here competing hard and everybody knows what's in front of us. We all want to do the extra things necessary to get to Miami. So yeah, when Coach [Joiner] talks about his old times, I'm trying to mix in some memories of my own.
ML: Looking forward to next year, three of the team's top-four receivers have contracts that expire at the end of this season. Have you thought at all about how quickly you could move up the depth chart?
GB: To be honest with you, I don't spend much time thinking about that stuff. That stuff is out of my hands. I can't control it. I can only control the things that I can do. Right now, I'm just trying to concentrate on what we have in front of us now and when we get there we'll cross that bridge at that time.
ML: How are the preparations going for the New York Giants?
GB: For the scout team's situation, we just run the routes that they run and try to present a good picture to our defense. That's pretty much it, as far as that goes. We've watched a little film on their offense, just to see what their receivers look like and running their different route combinations.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.