OTAs Receive a Facelift

The Chargers have started their organized team activity workouts and just where are all the familiar faces?

While a solid core of players remains, another core has moved on: running back LaDainian Tomlinson, defensive tackle Jamal Williams, cornerback Antonio Cromartie and backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst.

"It's certainly the first practice without some guys that have been around here a long time," quarterback Philip Rivers said after a recent session. "But we have gone 6-8 weeks with the offseason program and the participating has been good as since I have been here. We got 45 guys with the 7:30 (a.m.) group pretty consistently."

The Chargers are striving to stay the course, one they hope will eventually get them to the Super Bowl. While proud of winning four straight AFC West titles, the Chargers know the bigger prize has eluded them.

So they are attacking OTAs and many of the other spring tune-ups with a purpose.

Rivers thinks it's important for the younger players to see and learn just how to go about their business.

"The guys that have been here kind of took control of things and helped guys out that needed it because obviously it was cranked up from their rookie camp," Rivers said.

But many of those rookies didn't see some well-known former or current Chargers. In addition to those moving on, linebacker Shawne Merriman, left tackle Marcus McNeill and wide receivers Malcom Floyd and Vincent Jackson have yet to sign their tender offers. So far, they are declining to participate in the team practice sessions.

That opens doors for others to make an impression and Rivers said that is the silver lining from those skipping the team work.

That's especially true for the wideouts; Legedu Naanee is also out while rehabbing a foot injury.

"They are going to get the opportunity," Rivers said. "We know what Vince and Malcom mean to this team and bring and they will be in there.

"But to have the opportunity to be in with guys who wouldn't normally have an opportunity ? it gives them a chance to show what they can do."

The showing of so many fresh Chargers faces underlines the fact that many new players will be asked to contribute this season.

"We've know who is going to be here for some time now," Rivers said. "The attendance and work has been awesome since the last week of March.

"We have laid the ground work, now we get to go do some football stuff the next couple of weeks."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Ex-Chargers QB Drew Brees is in town for a charity golf tournament. QB Philip Rivers wasn't sure if their paths would cross. "Drew and I traded text messages probably a week or so ago," Rivers said. "I don't know if I will run into him or not but we certainly stay in touch."

--WR Buster Davis, a former first-round pick, is getting to work with the first team with restricted free agents Vincent Jackson and Malcom Turner unsigned.

"Buster understands this is a great opportunity for him," coach Norv Turner said. "He's making all the catches," S Eric Weddle said.

"I know I have to keep my body healthy," said Davis, who has been slowed by various injuries.

--Jim Jauch, a former Chargers scout, has rejoined the club. Jauch comes from the Browns, where he was associate director of college and pro scouting. His first stint with the Chargers was from 1992-03. He replaces Darrell Moody after he exited to join the Bills.

--The Chargers' top two draft picks, RB Ryan Mathews and ILB Donald Butler, are missing the OTA workouts because their classes are still in session at their universities.

--OLB Shawne Merriman and LT Marcus McNeill are skipping the OTAs because the restricted free agents haven't signed their contract tenders.

--K Nate Kaeding isn't participating because he is still nursing a groin injury.

--The team signed rookie free-agent LBs Boris Lee and Mike Nixon.

--QB Philip Rivers will host a football camp in San Diego on July 10-11. He promises to throw each camper at least one pass. "Even if some of them are there as quarterbacks," he said.

--The team continues to push its downtown site as the best spot to build a venue to replace Qualcomm Stadium.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The more young guys you bring in, the better chance you have striking gold. There are good players here that have had success in the past and are prepared to play." -- Coach Norv Turner on having seven rookie wide receivers taking part in the offseason workouts.


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