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McNeill returns to practice
SAN DIEGO – Let the countdown begin.
Left tackle Marcus McNeill practiced Wednesday, less than a week after signing a one-year contract tender with the Chargers.
He’s missed all team activities since the playoffs in January and now has 18 days to get ready for the St. Louis Rams, when he’ll come off the roster exempt list and be eligible for the active roster.
“Fitness-wise, I feel like I’m ready to go right now. I can step on the field honestly and play as many downs as I need to,” McNeill said.
“Right now it’s more about the fundamentals and the basics of football that I might need to work on, making sure I knock a little rust off, but like I like to say, I know how to play football. I feel like it’s innate. I’ve been playing my whole life.”
McNeill worked against the first defense during Wednesday’s practice and provided a good look of what the Cardinals might do, Head Coach Norv Turner said.
“Marcus looks great and it’s great to have him back out,” Turner said. “Obviously he’s not preparing to play a game, he’s preparing our defensive players to play. He’s presenting the Arizona look, and he was awfully good (Wednesday).”
MATHEWS COULD RETURN: Ryan Mathews is optimistic he’ll play Sunday against Arizona.
No. 12 overall pick injured his ankle against Jacksonville and missed last week’s game at Seattle. He practiced Wednesday.
“It sucks watching your team from the sidelines and knowing you’ve got to sit out that game. Hopefully I never have to experience that again,” Mathews said.
The running back has averaged 4.8 yards per play on 28 carries and receptions.
“Based on what I saw today, I’m encouraged,” Turner said. “I hate to say (he’ll definitely play) and then have him have a setback over the next couple days, but I’m hopeful.”
Mike Tolbert became the primary back in his absence and rushed 33 times for 155 yards against the Jaguars and Seahawks.
Running back Curtis Brinkley, whom the Chargers signed to the active roster last week with Mathews out, rejoined the practice squad Wednesday.
COOPER BACK: Inside linebacker Stephen Cooper expects to play this week after missing two games with a knee injury.
Cooper, who got hurt against Kansas City in Week 1, has led the Chargers in tackles for three consecutive seasons.
“I’m feeling good. I’m ready to go. I practiced today, went fast, and I’m feeling great,” Cooper said.
TICKETS AVAILABLE: A wide variety of tickets are available for fans interested in seeing San Diego take on the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. at Qualcomm Stadium, and about 7,000 general tickets and 1,800 Club seats remain.
PRACTICE WEATER: Sunny, 87 degrees.