Soon there will be revelation. This Sunday, when the Chargers open the season against the Raiders in Oakland, the vanilla defenses of the preseason will be gone. How Leaf holds up against the rush—not to mention the media blitz that will follow his every setback—will determine whether his rehabilitation is a miracle or a mirage. Under pressure, will he indeed turn the corner? Or will he return to being Boy Blunder?
"I've been amazed by the guy's composure," says veteran guard Kevin Gogan, who signed with San Diego in the off-season, "but the real question is, How will he react when the stuff hits the fan?"
The next chapter should be especially compelling. "Ryan's situation can be an example for a lot of young athletes," Seau says. "For the first time he's focusing on what he needs to do right, rather than on justifying what he has done wrong. If he stays humble and allows this city to embrace him for the way he performs, instead of letting the focus be on the way he acts, the sky's the limit—because the guy has a great arm. You've got to credit growth, but it's still too early. Judgment day is coming on Sunday."