2001 NFL Football Preview

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A beautiful sight

(The beach, not the Chargers)

Click here for more on this story
Posted: Saturday August 11, 2001 1:02 PM
Updated: Saturday August 11, 2001 10:55 PM

This is the 13th in a series of postcards Sports Illustrated's Peter King will e-mail from his NFL training-camp tour.

Friday, Aug. 10, 2001

Team: San Diego Chargers

Site: The campus of the University of California-San Diego is not particularly pretty, bisected by a road and featuring some ugly low-rise dorms. But to criticize the feel of UCSD as a site for training camp is to criticize Ichiro because he doesn't hit enough home runs. It's a half-mile from the Pacific, for crying out loud! When players walk into the cafeteria for lunch, they can look to the left and, if they strain to see over the trees, see waves breaking in the near distance.

Five observations from practice that you just can't get anywhere else:

Recent Postcards

  • 2001 Preseason Archive

  • Saw a walkthrough practice at the UCSD Tritons' stadium just off North Torrey Pines Road. Which is to say I made absolutely no judgments about the fitness of the 2001 Chargers for combat. Here are five observations about this interesting team:

    1. Good thing Doug Flutie can scramble, because this offensive line is an absolute mishmash. You know you're in trouble when the best guy on the front five might be Raleigh Roundtree.

    2. Marcellus Wiley is in superb shape and will have a chance to be the edge pass-rusher the Chargers desperately needed. Excellent signing.

    3. Drew Brees has been in camp only three days, but he already knows the drill. After every practice, Flutie signs autographs, often for everyone on hand. Now Brees trails him and does what Flutie does. Talked to Flutie, and he seems to really like the kid. It's not Flutie's job to mentor the kid -- we've been through that before, on draft day, when I said that job is offensive coordinator Norv Turner's -- but it helps that Flutie and Brees get along.

    4. Three recent Calgary Stampeder starting quarterbacks -- Flutie and Dave Dickenson of the Chargers, and Jeff Garcia of the 49ers -- will meet in the preseason opener Saturday night at Qaulcomm. Flutie will play 15 plays with his new mates. Dickenson will try to prove he should be No. 2, an uphill climb because the Chargers love everything about Brees so far. Brees won't play because he just got here.

    5. The Chargers can practically fill half my training-camp all-name team. At wide receiver, No. 10, DeRonnie Pitts! At running back, No. 34, Madre Hill! (I don't mean to be cruel here, but I must ask this question: What mother would name her son "Mother," just in another language? I just wonder why, if she was inclined to name the little fellow after a parental name, she didn't choose Padre. And wouldn't that be good in this case? If he scored the winning touchdown against Oakland, the San Diego Union Tribune desk man could slap this headline on the story: SAN DIEGO PADRE BEATS RAIDERS.) At the corners, No. 20, Kecalf Bailey and No. 27, Tay Cody! At fullback, No. 49, Mukala Sikyala! At safety, No. 36, Titcus Pettigrew! And at guard, No. 71, DeMingo Graham!

    Opinion/factoid that might be ineresting only to me:

    1. The Starbucks at the UTC Mall in LaJolla set an unofficial Peter King record this morning: most surgically enhanced women at one Starbucks at one time. I counted four.

    2. Norv Turner's quarterback son Scott will walk on at UNLV and try to make John Robinson's Runnin' Rebels. Scott, it seems, wants to be a coach. Haven't you taught him anything, Norv?

    3. This might be just me, but have any of you frequent travelers flown Southwest recently? If so, have you noticed that it's like putting wings on a cattle car? First you rush to be in the first boarding group. Then you rush to get on the plane so there's some bin space left. Then you pray that the man sitting next to you isn't a hyperactive nervous flyer whose hips grind into yours at every miniscule bit of turbulence? Maybe it's just the Oakland-to-San Diego route, I don't know.

    The food: Congratulations, UCSD dining staff. You win the award for lunch of the week.

  • Teriyaki grilled chicken. Tender, just the right touch of sweetness. A-minus.

  • Pea pods. Crispy. Good. Not much to say about pea pods. A-minus.

  • Steamed wite rice. Not much to say about white rice, either. B.

  • Broiled swordfish. A tad bland, but it's good for you. C-plus.

  • Mixed green salad with cherry tomatoes, cukes, shredded carrots and the house ranch. Very nice. B-plus.

  • UCSD Mountain Spring Water, 33.8 ounces, from deep springs high in the Palomar Mountains, according to the label.

  • Macadamia nut cookies (2) with vanilla chips. Wow. Best dessert in any camp so far, except for the yogurt-and-fresh-fruit smoothie in Cleveland. A.

    Overall, there's not a lot you can do to improve this meal. It even filled me up.

    Dear NFL Junkie:

    Doug Flutie approaches with a beat-up golf cap, San Diego Padres Limited Collection T-shirt, Levis, well-worn cross-trainers and a deep tan. Thirty-eight? The man looks not a day over 28.

    I must say that I've always been a big Flutie booster. He is excellent, not just good, for the game. The things he does on the field you can't teach, and he makes up for his size with zeal and a better arm than anyone thinks and mobility. I like the fact that in Buffalo for parts of three seasons, he had a plus-17 touchdown-to-interception ration, and he got sacked but 1.2 times a game. Those are numbers of a man very fit to play the game at a high level.

    Speaking of fitness, I asked Flutie about competing in the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon in the off-season. Great story. Seems he signed on to do some PR work for the event and didn't know that meant he was actually going to participate. So he flew up to San Francisco from San Diego late on a Saturday night -- he got in close to midnight for the Sunday morning gig. In order, the triathlon is a 1.5-mile swim in the San Francisco Bay, just off Alcatraz, an 18-mile bike ride through the hills of San Francisco, and an eight-mile run through all the hills they didn't hit on the bike ride. So Flutie reports for work Sunday morning, and they start to fit him for a wet suit and a bike. He wonders what's going on.

    "They tell me, 'Well, just start each event,' " he said, sitting on a low wall on the UCSD campus this noon. "There's going to be TV cameras there, and they obviously want to use me to promote the event."

    Flutie swims a bit in the 55-degree water and gets out of the water, exhausted. The cameras are on him right away, and he doesn't want to look like a wuss, so he jumps back in the water and finishes the swim, though he's not a big swimmer. Now the bike trip. "Incredibly hilly," he said. "Ridiculously hilly. You're on the lowest gear, and you're pedaling as hard as you can up these monster hills, and you're going nowhere. My quads are burning."

    Now for the run.

    "I have to finish now," he said. "The first two miles are flat. The next two are uphill. The next two are on the beach, in the sand. Then we have to climb a 300-step ladder to get to the last portion of the course. A killer. My legs are shot. But I finished. I guess I finished about middle of the pack, three hours and 19 minutes. I was pretty proud of myself, considering I had no idea I would be doing this.

    "Now I'm thinking I really want to get into distance training. I loved doing this. The past couple of years I've run the first half of the Boston Marathon, and I've really enjoyed it."

    Now you know why he looks 28.

    What an American original this man is.

    Postscript: I was talking to Jim Trotter, the Union Tribune's Charger beat man, about Flutie today, and he told me he was walking out of camp one night about 9:45, and there was Flutie, shooting baskets by himself on a UCSD outdoor court.

    Next: New Orleans Saints.

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