Norv Turner has coached in the NFL for 31 years with nine organizations, so he’s as accustomed to facing a former team as anyone who ever put on a headset.
Well, here he is again, with present and past colliding. The offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings has been scheming all week to beat the San Diego Chargers, the team he supervised for six seasons.
“It’s just part of this league now,” said Turner, who went 56-40 plus 3-3 in the playoffs with San Diego from 2007-12 before he was fired following a 7-9 finish, his only losing record there.
After one year as the offensive coordinator for Cleveland, Turner was hired by Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer prior to last season.
“I have ultimate confidence in everything that he does,” Zimmer said.
Turner has had more success as an offensive coordinator than over three stints as a head coach. But his ability to develop quarterbacks, call plays and mesh elements of a power running attack with a deep passing game has made him one of the most revered assistants in the league.
“Just can’t wait to see him. I’m going to give him a big hug, that’s for sure, if he’s on the field,” said Chargers defensive end Corey Liuget, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2011.
Turner’s first five teams with the Chargers each ranked in the top five in the NFL in scoring.
“We did a lot of good things in San Diego, and we’re trying to duplicate some of those things here,” Turner said. “We’ve got a heck of an offensive staff, young guys. It’s fun.”
Here are some key angles to know about the Chargers-Vikings game:
THE LAST TIME: San Diego’s previous visit to Minnesota produced an unforgettable game, when Antonio Cromartie returned a failed field goal 109 yards for a Chargers touchdown as the first half expired, and Adrian Peterson rushed for an NFL-record 296 yards for the Vikings in a 35-17 victory.
BEST FRIENDS: The Vikings will be plenty wary of Chargers rookie Melvin Gordon, but there’s one player on the team who’d appreciate tackling him more than anyone: rookie cornerback Trae Waynes.
Gordon and Waynes are lifelong friends, former teammates at Kenosha Bradford High School in Wisconsin. The first-round draft picks communicate daily, Gordon said, usually about non-football topics. So there wasn’t exactly a bunch of trash talk back and forth this week.
Gordon (Wisconsin) and Waynes (Michigan State) faced each other in 2011 in college, but they were freshmen then in minor roles. Gordon is the lead running back for the Chargers, but Waynes is again a bit player, so far only on special teams. That won’t detract from the experience this weekend, though, with dozens of friends and family expected to attend.
“Something we always dreamed about,” Waynes said.
UP FRONT ABOUT IT: Both teams have depth trouble on the offensive line.
Chargers right guard D.J. Fluker (sprained left ankle) could miss his second straight game. Chris Hairston had a so-so game as Fluker’s replacement. Johnnie Troutman (broken right forearm) could be another two weeks from returning. Center Chris Watt (groin injury) missed Wednesday’s practice. If he can’t go, Trevor Robinson would start.
For the Vikings, already missing center John Sullivan (back surgery) for at least the first half of the season, and right tackle Phil Loadholt (torn left Achilles tendon) for the whole season, left guard Brandon Fusco (concussion) added to the anxiety by missing practice Wednesday. Fusco returned to the field Thursday. Jeremiah Sirles, acquired in a trade three weeks ago with the Chargers, would start if Fusco can’t. Mike Harris, claimed off waivers before last season after the Chargers let him go, is starting at right guard for the Vikings this year.
TIGHT END HEAD TRAUMA: Ladarius Green suffered his second concussion in less than two weeks, and his third since December, during Sunday’s loss at Cincinnati. His status is unknown. Green, starting in place of the suspended Antonio Gates, was examined for concussion-like symptoms after practice Sept. 9. He played in the season-opening win against Detroit four days later. As a precaution Thursday, the Chargers re-signed Kyle Miller.
KEEPING CLEAN: Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr shoved Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford out of bounds last week, drawing an unnecessary roughness penalty. Zimmer said the league told him that shouldn’t have been flagged, because Stafford slowed down before crossing the line. But Detroit wide receiver Golden Tate, without being specific, said he believed “110 percent” that the Vikings took some cheap shots during the victory.
“That doesn’t bother me. I know what kind of team we are. We’re not dirty,” Zimmer said.