Chargers postcard (cont.)
Outside linebacker Larry English, the team's first-round pick, has been slowed by a hamstring injury. He won't start but is expected to play a big role in the pass-rush rotation. He's not as big as starters Merriman and Shaun Phillips, but the coaches say he plays with excellent leverage and has a high-revving motor.
Rivers pump-faked left, then threw to his right, down the right numbers. Jammer was trailing in coverage and broke under to make a play on the ball. Safety Eric Weddle also broke on the ball from above the play and nailed the unsuspecting Jammer, who lay on the turf, face down,[ for what seemed like an eternity. Ultimately everyone was OK, but the play cast a pall over practice.
1. Merriman's impact on the field is obvious; he has 39.5 sacks in 43 games. But his impact away from the field is just as important. Like in the weight room. "If guys come in and they're doing the weights and they know they can do more but they pick up a [lighter][weight, it's not going to go down if I see it," Merriman says. "It's not going to happen. I'm going to talk so much [mess] to you that you're going to go over there and pick up another weight."
2. You hate to beat up on a guy, but wide receiver Buster Davis continues to be a disappointment because he can't stay healthy. He has appeared in only 17 games (one start) since being drafted in the first round in 2007, and has been a regular on the sideline in camp. The former LSU standout has tremendous athletic ability; the question is whether the team and fans will ever get to see it consistently in games? His current problem, reportedly, is his quadriceps.
3. Tight end Gates has got his "swag[ger]" back. Good health will do that to you. Gates told me that when he saw one-on-one coverage in training camp last year, he wasn't 100 percent sure he could beat it because he was still recovering from offseason foot surgery. He would come back to the huddle and just move on to the next play. Now? "When I come back I look at Philip like, 'Man [coverage]? Come on,' " Gates says, chuckling. "You just feel like that."
4. Cromartie has generated a lot of attention this camp for being fined $2,500 by the team for what it considered an inappropriate posting on Twitter. (Cromartie joked that perhaps the Chargers missed the Super Bowl the past two seasons because the food in training camp stinks.) The fourth-year pro figures to generate even more attention on the field after fully recovering from a hip injury that slowed him in 2008. Cromartie saw his interception total fall from 10 in 2007 to two last season. But he has looked terrific in camp. In the offseason he trained in Los Angeles with a group that included wideouts T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson, and the reviews from Houshmandzadeh were thumbs-up. "He looked good," Houshmandzadeh said. "He's going to have a big year."
Says Cromartie: "Right now I feel better than I have in a long time, a very long time."
5. Tomlinson and Merriman admittedly have chips on their shoulders to prove wrong people who say they've lost something. One person who likes that attitude is their GM. "I love chips on shoulders,," Smith says. "I love it for a head coach, I love it for the individual players. Anytime there's an issue that you want to take on for your own motivation -- I love chips. I hope there are more chips out there going on than you can imagine."
6. Smith on the team's failure to reach the Super Bowl despite being popular preseason picks in recent years: "We're not good enough to beat the big boys. Who are the big boys right now? For us that's the New England Patriots, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Indianapolis Colts. Pittsburgh two [championships], New England two, Colts one. The odd-ball team in that since I've been here is the Giants. So the teams that have been knocking us out, that have been very, very good, have racked up five [titles]. We've got nothing. We're not good enough yet. You're not good enough until you beat them and hold up the trophy."
7. Count Tomlinson among those hoping to see Michael Vick return to the league. He told Vick as much when he contacted him after Vick was released from federal custody, after serving 18 months for his role in a dogfighting operation.
"We had a good conversation," said Tomlinson. "It was basically just a way to say, 'Hey, man, whatever you've been through, as a brother we're behind you. We're looking for you to come back and make a positive story out of this. But if you ever want to talk about anything, I'm here.'
"I'm in the same situation as far as celebrity status," Tomlinson continued, "and sometimes you can't talk to everybody. Sometimes you need somebody who kind of understands the same things that you may be experiencing. That's where I was coming from, just to reach out to him and let him know that I'm here if he needs to talk."
Tomlinson and Vick share a bond in that they were part of a 2001 pre-draft trade bonanza. San Diego sent the first pick of the draft to Atlanta, which used it on Vick. The Chargers then selected Tomlinson with the fifth overall pick that the Falcons owned.
Tomlinson used to think that their careers would forever be linked, but not so much anymore. "Our careers have taken two different paths," he said. "I'm still playing and he's, obviously, looking for a team now. So it's hard for me to even think about the comparison of what happened in the draft. It's funny how things change. I just hope he gets that opportunity to play again."
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