Turner, Rivers & Castillo Talk Playoff Prep

Wednesday at Chargers Park, Coach Norv Turner, Philip Rivers and Luis Castillo met with the media to talk about facing the Washington Redskins and preparing for the playoffs.

Head Coach Norv Turner

Are you surprised there's been as much commotion as there's been about the Colts' situation?

"No, because it seems there's commotion about alot of things that are fairly routine. I haven't paid a lot of attention to it. We try to focus on our own situation and we're getting ready for a football game."

What's your philosophy on resting orplaying guys?

"I think preparation is the key. Obviously, we had some guys that couldn't practice today and we'll evaluate where they are on Friday. The guys that aren't healthy, they're not going to play and they won't be active, but the guys that are dressed do need to be prepared to play and we'll make decisions on each guy as we get to the game."

Your thoughts on the guys selected to the Pro Bowl?

"It's exciting for the first-time guys. Nate Kaeding's a guy that I think has warranted being a Pro Bowl player and sometimes, depending on the guys at your position, you've got to wait your turn. He's had a great year and is certainly deserving. All of the guys are deserving. It's a great honor."

Does having the bye week affect how much you'll play guys in the final game?

"I'm sure it would affect you if you felt you had to get a guy ready to play the next week if he had a little bit of an injury or was at all at risk; you'd make the decision a little differently. The thing about it is that we need to go play. We need to prepare to play and go play and how long a guy plays isn't the issue; it's to make sure they're doing the things they need to do to prepare so we stay in that routine. And we'll do the same thing next week."

Is the fact that Hardwick practiced today asign that he came out of Friday's game feeling good?

"It's a great sign. I came in and visited with the guys that got treatment on Saturday morning and Nick did not need any treatment. So I called him and I think I woke him up on Saturday morning and he said he felt great; better than he had after any of the practices. That was great progress and he was fine today. He's really done well with the foot."

Do you go into the game with a set plan of how much each guy's going to play?

"We have an idea of what we want to do. The big thing is you only get 45 guys to dress. And the biggest thing is that all our guys have the mindset to play the entire game."

Coach Norv Turner
Stephen Dunn/Getty
Were you happy with the preparation for the Tennessee game?

"We've got an amazing group and they've learned. They know how to go out and have fun, but they know how to go out and prepare. When we start to stretch and get going, they're going to practice. They practice fast this time of year. On Wednesdays we don't do a lot of hitting so we get a fast tempo going. Tomorrow we'll have the shoulder pads on and it'll be a physical practice but we had a good practice today."

Can you talk about the season that Ian Scott's having?

"We have so many guys, particularly on defense, but also on those offensive and defensive lines, that are great stories. Ian's one of them. We released him and he had the knee (injury) and had to have it cleaned out. And then we had other injuries and we re-signed him. I think when a guy has had the knee done in August and he wasn't 100 percent, but he was close and getting there, people make an assumption that they're just keeping that guy for 2-3 weeks while someone else gets healthy. But that certainly was not the case. My intention was to do what we've done and he's handled it and had an outstanding year."

Do you expect Buster Davis to play on Sunday?

"I would think there is chance Buster would get an opportunity to dress to play. Again, that will be dictated by what happens later in the week."

How do you keep guys from getting hurt?

"If you go out and play and you don't think about it, your chances of getting through it are pretty good. We've gotten through the last few games being healthy and you help your odds by reducing the number of plays for some guys. But you are going to play a certain number of plays and you're going to have your 11 guys on the field. For us it's a great opportunity in different parts of the game to play some guys that haven't had a lot of reps and there's some guys that maybe called upon as we get into the playoffs."

Has it been difficult to keep the team grounded during the win streak?

"I think it's a combination of a number of things. It's a point of emphasis from me and our staff. I think I said in May that our team had reached the highest level of maturity we've had and that comes from experience and obviously having the experiences that this team has had over the last 4-5 years. I think there's a seriousness about what you have to do and what can happen to you. A few years you assume that you get to this point, you're supposed to continue and it's going to happen. Anything you get in this league you're going to earn and you make happen and I think our guys have a great understanding of that."

What can you say about the influence of veterans like Antonio Gates and Shaun Phillips?

"I'm glad you mention those two guys because there are a lot of other guys that always get mentioned and it's important. We have a lot of guys that have played at a high level who've had great success during the regular season. And we've had success in theplayoffs the last two years. We've played in the Championship Game and obviously had big wins against Indianapolis and Tennessee. But they also have that experience, and it's that painful experience of not completing what they'd like to get done. So I think that carries over through a lot of our guys and it helps all of our guys stay focused."

Quarterback Philip Rivers

In light of what happened in Indianapolis Sunday, what's your take on how much you should play Sunday?

"I think it's obviously up to each individual team and each team has different circumstances and approaches. We've been told, and I'm sure Norv will fill you in with whatever info he sees necessary, to prepare like a regular week and for everybody to be ready to play four quarters. How that will play out we're not sure, but I think for us to go and prepare and get a week better and keep having the same approach that we've had the last 10 weeks will be in our best interest and give ourselves the best chance to improve as we head to the playoff game in January."

For you personally what do you think will be best?

"Again, I'm preparing to play four quarters. I think any time you suit up, you want to go win the game. Whoever's in there, how long, and whoever it is in a Charger uniform, we're trying to go win the game and get to 13-3. (We're trying to) get a week better and keep the rhythm and flow going as we head into the postseason."

QB Philip Rivers
Matt Sullivan/Getty
Do you talk about carrying over the December success to January?

"Yeah, we take a great deal of pride in the fact that we have won 18 in a row in December. We did it again this year, we went unblemished in December. I think that's had a lot to do – finishing strong in December – you give yourself a chance in the postseason, which we've done. Certainly now that we've done that we want to play even better ball in January. The goal is obvious. It'll be there for 12 teams. It starts this week. However long we're in there and whoever is playing for four quarters, we're trying to win a football game and get a week better. Then we get a little time to not only rest but to prepare for what we hope is going to be a great postseason."

What impresses you most about the job Norv Turner has done this season?

"I think as he's done really every year, the steadiness, the never-flinch leadership and attitude that he coaches with have allowed us to bounce back from a 4-8, bounce back from a 2-3 and stay on the ground enjoying a 10-game win streak. We never get too much on a high or too much on a low. It's a steady, very grounded, focused approach. It starts with him: he and the staff, the week-to-week game plans giving us a chance to succeed. I think ultimately the guys have to soak that in and put in the effort preparing. I think that's been the biggest reason why we've played so well. Our preparation Monday through Saturday has really allowed us to play at a high level on Sundays."

What are your thoughts on making the Pro Bowl and being named Chargers MVP?

"Being selected to the Pro Bowl team is an honor. Any time that a committee of fans and your peers and fellow competitors and coaches (acknowledges you), and to be held in regard with that type of players, it's an honor. Certainly all the guys on our team that made it, as a quarterback especially, it takes a lot of guys to be able to play at a high level and be recognized as such. The guys up front havedone a great job protecting and the guys have made plays. We have plenty of other players that are deserving of going.

"As far as being elected team MVP, it's hard to say who it is on this team. There are so many valuable assets and so many guys that stepped up this year. But any time your teammates select you, it is an honor. Certainly we all know it's taken all 53 plus, 60 or however many you've got. Everybody who is in here every day and practices every day, that's what it's took thus far to get to 12-3. We'll need every one of us to get to where we need to be after that first week of February."

What do you tell your teammates who didn't make the Pro Bowl but should have?

"I don't necessarily tell them anything. We all know how we think of one another and the respect we have as players. We hold each other in high regard. There are a lot of guys in that locker room that are worthy of going. That doesn't lessen their value to us or importance to this team that they're not going. I've been on that side of it too. It's a year-to-year thing, but certainly a lot of guys have played at a really high level and contributed to our success this year."

Defensive End Luis Castillo

Talk about all the different guys that have been brought in here throughout the year on the defensive line and how you guys have all come together.

"It's unbelievable how different it has been. You look at the changes and turnover and, more importantly, you look at the guys they've brought in, and the help that they have been able to provide to this team. Not only that, but you look at the closeness, and to bring in basically a new defensive line in which we have only two guys from last year who are playing right now, we have the closeness, camaraderie, and the family atmosphere in that room and it makes it really easy to step out on that field and play together and care about each other when you know you have a group that's going to give you everything they have. They've been able to not only come in, but also be productive."

DE Luis Castillo
Kevin Terrell/Getty
Do you ever stop and take a look at who's helping you now?

"It's different. Sometimes I'm looking at film and I see numbers and I don't exactly remember who it is. We joke around sometimes and say they are trying to bring in the Chicago Bears defensive line from a couple of years ago. And little by little, we are getting close to that. But really it's unbelievable what these guys have been able to come in and do. To come in mid-season, Ian Scott was with us early and then he left, then came back and picked up the defense but also get in it and make plays like he has. It's not just guys out there being bodies, its guys out there being productive, making plays, and helping us achieve our main goals. We talked about it earlier. We gave up a bunch of yards early in the season and we lost a bunch of guys to injuries and the biggest we said is at the end of the year, this is going to help us. Because we're having so many young guys play, it's going to make us a more solid group with experience. And it's shown up late in the year."

Are you expecting to play the whole game on Sunday?

"I don't know what's going to happen in terms of reps and who will play when. I think the most important thing for us is preparation. Looking at what we've been able to achieve the last 10 weeks, preparation has been the key for us. It's been able to come out here on Wednesday and Thursday, prepare the right way and really focus and have an excitement about what we are going to do. And not only to be focused but to have fun while we do it. And if we can continue to do that and continue that role, then we feel as if we can continue to be successful."

What do make about the talk of getting hurt in these kind of situations?

"It becomes an issue one game a year. We played 20 games leading up to this and really you don't think about it. As a player, maybe you think about it during the week or outside of the moment. But the moment you are on the field, there's nothing on your mind but to fulfill that task and doing your job because there is no other way to approach it. When you're out there, as intense as it is, and as focused as you are, and as much fun as we have, everything else goes away, whether it's records or long-term achievements. At the end of the day we are a bunch of guys who love playing this game. And when we step on that field we are going to have fun and play hard."

What impresses you most about the job Coach Turner has done this year?

"He's been able to do somany things to keep this team together on an even keel. I don't think enough credit goes towards that at times. You look at some of the peaks and some of the valleys and the most important thing you can say about the guy is that he's kept us going in the same direction. Whether we are going through some tough times or we are doing really well, there's always been the mentality that we are going to keep our heads down and we are going to get better. No matter what, that mentality is the same and the approach is the same. Aside from that, he came in here three years ago and I remember his first meeting. One of the things he said that stood out from that day was that we are going to learn how to be a complete team at the end of the season when it matters most. If we can do that and play well at the end of the year in all aspects, then we can be successful and that's what we've been able to do."

Is this team healthier than previous seasons?

"Healthy is what it is in the moment. You never know what's going to happen the next day. We've gone through games where we've had four or five guys go down so you never know. The biggest thing you try to do is prepare where it doesn't matter about who's going to be in there. But you can't think about it. We've had so many guys come in so many different situations and that's one of the big keys to our team. You look at the talent; you look at the execution and coaching. But to be able to have a guy step in when he hasn't played much and have him be successful like Paul Oliver last year or a Brandyn Dombrowski this year or the defensive line guys like Vaughn Martin who didn't play much early but he has been able to come in and play better than before. So when you can get guys reps early because of injuries, it makes you that much better later on in the year and that's what has been showing."

How critical can that be in the postseason?

"You can't talk enough about how important that is. When you can plug a guy in the middle of the game and have him go in there and not miss a beat, and be mentally sharp enough to execute the right way and not make a mistake that will hurt the team, that's the key. Part of that is having the confidence to have done it. Whether its playoffs or the regular season, it doesn't matter. If you're taking reps and flying around, you get used to that feeling pretty quickly and it becomes a habit. Then when you are asked to step in during playoffs, you're going to be ready to go."

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