Bolts Notebook: Smith Digs in His Heels

The Chargers have fired a high, hard one under the chin of restricted free agents Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill.

The two key offensive players were told by Chargers general manager A.J. Smith that their tender offers would be rescinded if not signed by Tuesday (June 15).

And if you think Smith is bluffing, you haven't been paying attention.

Smith has forged his reputation on never giving an inch, never backing off after digging his heels in. There's little evidence to speculate he's going to do so next week.

So as spring turns to summer, things are heating up for all the wrong reasons at Chargers Park.

Jackson, an emerging star among wide receivers, and McNeill, the Pro Bowler protecting quarterback Philip Rivers' blindside, have boycotted the Chargers' offseason workouts.

And indications are they won't be at training camp and may sit out even longer.

The skinny is this: Under the CBA, the Chargers can reduce their contract offers on Tuesday. Jackson could earn $3.2 million off his tender; McNeill is at $3.1 million.

But after Tuesday, the club has the right to slash those amounts to the tune of some $2.5 million.

Will Smith blink? Doubtful.

Will the players blink? Maybe. Although there's chatter Jackson has a stubborn streak and might not show.

It's obvious Smith is adding insurance, just in case.

The team signed veteran left tackle Tra Thomas on Wednesday, luring him West after he was contemplating retirement.

Is Thomas the player McNeill is? Not even close at the age of 35.

But his signing sends a message that if McNeill doesn't want to be a Charger, the team is setting sail with someone else.

Jackson's replacement is likely on the roster, although that could change. Anyone for Terrell Owens wearing Chargers blue?

While bringing in the disruptive Owens appears to be a stretch, Malcom Floyd recently signed his tender offer and could possibly fill any void left by Jackson. At any rate, Jackson will need a replacement for likely one or two games this upcoming season after being convicted in the offseason of his second driving under the influence charge.


WR Malcom Floyd
--Wide receiver Malcom Floyd made his point by skipping the Chargers' recent minicamp.

His point made, Floyd is ready to go to work.

"Nothing positive was going to come out of continuing to stay at home," Floyd said.

Floyd was among the four Chargers upset that they were tendered one-year deals instead embracing the riches which accompany unrestricted free agency. But those hopes were dashed when the uncertainty over the labor agreement led to an uncapped year. A byproduct of that was many players, including Floyd, were restricted in free agency and missed out on millions as unrestricted free agents.

But while some have made a point to make a point, Floyd has done all he will do.

He'll let fellow wide receiver Vincent Jackson and left tackle Marcus McNeill make their stands. But Floyd was tired of standing on the sideline, so he signed and jumped back into practice with his teammates.

"It was good to get some reps with (quarterback Philip Rivers) and start getting ready for the season," he said.

Floyd had a breakthrough season in 2009, catching 45 passes for 776 yards and a touchdown; his 17.2-yard average tied for the team lead.

But he wasn't going to be the lead dog in the players' fight with the Chargers over the lack of long-term deals.

In a way, Floyd, who started nine games last year, could benefit from Jackson's stubborn stance.

Between Jackson and McNeill, it's believed Jackson is more determined to skip part of the season. At the least, he will likely be suspended one or two games after being convicted for his second driving under the influence charge. Either of those possibilities could mean increased playing time for Floyd.

If Jackson really does turn the tough talk of June into skipping games in September, Floyd would seemingly take Jackson's role -- unless the team went outside the organization for help.

Other candidates, Legedu Naanee and Buster Davis, have been slowed by injuries this offseason. And neither has shown the knack for making tough catches and being such an inviting red-zone target as Floyd.

The Chargers have zeroed in on passing the ball of late in becoming one of the NFL's most explosive offenses. But that philosophy of moving the ball could be compromised if Jackson and McNeill miss significant time in preseason or beyond.

The Chargers took one step to cover their own hides by signing veteran left tackle Tra Thomas.

And while there has been some chatter the team might make a run at wide receiver Terrell Owens, it's more likely Jackson's spot will be filled by Floyd.

Floyd has long been a favorite of Rivers as the two spent many afternoons honing their craft way back when Rivers was No. 2 to Drew Brees and Floyd was anchored to the practice squad.

"Philip makes great reads based on the coverage and he's going to hit the guys who are open nine times out of 10," Floyd said.

--In LT Tra Thomas, the Chargers get a former first-round draft pick, with three Pro Bowls, five NFC title games and a Super Bowl on his resume.

"Tra is a talented player with a wealth of starting experience," general manager A.J. Smith said. "We have held him in high regard for many years. He will be added to the mix as we move forward in preparation for the upcoming season."

--The Chargers have added veteran TE Randy McMichael to the team and with Antonio Gates nursing a sore foot, he's been getting plenty of work. "It was just fun to be back out here playing ball," he said. "Sometimes I had a couple of rookie moments when I was looking around, trying to follow where all the other guys are going, but it was just fun to be out here with my new team."

--DL Vaughn Martin, who had offseason ankle surgery, is slowly returning to workouts and should be a go for training camp.

--SS Kevin Ellison, who started the second half of last season, has returned to team workouts. He was told by team officials to skip minicamp in light of his recent arrest on a drug charge. Ellison isn't commenting on the arrest.

--Rookie RB Ryan Mathews has been featured in "Wildcat" formations during offseason workouts.

"It's cool. I ran a little bit of it in college and I ran a lot of it in high school, so I'm used to it," Mathews said. "It's fun. I think it helps me see the field a little bit more."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "In Philly, man, we used to pass protect all the time. Pass protection was always one of my best assets. I'm flexible. Whatever needs to be done, I'm willing to put in the work to be successful. If I need to be a run blocker, I'm willing to put in the extra work. I'm a 12-year vet, but I don't walk around like I'm above doing the extra work." -- LT Tra Thomas on the work ethic he brings to the Chargers.

BoltsReport Top Stories