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Sun., Jul. 19, 2015 7:30 AM PDT
A familiar face returns to Chargers Park
SAN DIEGO – A long-haired, bearded, tall 29-year-old entered Chargers Park on Monday for the first time in two years.
The time away seemed to do little to diminish his friendships. As he sat in an office on the second floor, passers-by kept coming in to shake his hand and slap him on the back.
It was a warm reception after an unexpected transaction from Charlie Whitehurst’s perspective, the quarterback San Diego traded to Seattle in 2010, two years ago yesterday.
“When free agency breaks, your agent kind of lets you know who’s interested. There was a handful of teams there, and a little bit of a surprising one there with the Chargers,” Whitehurst said. “When it became a possibility it was exciting to me and it’s something I definitely wanted to jump on.”
Citing his relationship with Head Coach Norv Turner, quarterback Philip Rivers and his knowledge of the offensive system, Whitehurst viewed San Diego as a good fit in spite of his relative lack of familiarity with the roster, which has changed so much since he moved to the Pacific Northwest.
Two of those new roster pieces are here directly or indirectly because of Whitehurst, a Chargers quarterback from 2006-09.
The Whitehurst trade helped the Bolts move up 20 spots in the second round of the 2010 draft, and Seattle also sent a 2011 third-round pick that became cornerback Shareece Wright. General Manager A.J. Smith then swung the Seahawks’ second-round pick as a key component in a trade with Miami that landed San Diego the No. 12 overall pick in 2010, running back Ryan Mathews.
Meanwhile, Whitehurst attempted the first 155 passes of his six-year NFL career with Seattle in 2010-11. He played his best during the last half of the ’10 season, appearing in four games and completing 59.2 percent of his passes.
Whitehurst threw 108 passes without an interception, a streak that carried into the ’11 season. In fact, his interception rate during his last seven appearances is less than .08 percent. (For context, that would place him third all-time if he accomplished it over the course of an entire season.)
“I think I’ve grown a lot (since I was with San Diego last),” Whitehurst said. “Here I learned a ton with the coaches. Being around Philip, I did learn a lot but I hadn’t played. These last two years I was able to play and played well at times. I would’ve loved to play better at other times.
“But the game-day experience when you’re under center is really invaluable, and it’s incredible how much you learn about the position and you become a better player for sure.”
Whitehurst’s next opportunity to play in an NFL game, other than entering late when the outcome already has been decided, will be a function of Rivers’ health. And Rivers has been one of the most durable quarterbacks in the league, starting 103 consecutive games for San Diego including playoffs. No other quarterback has started a game for the Chargers since 2005, even though Rivers tore an ACL during that span and has endured several other tough hits.
“He’s kind of like Mr. Indestructible. He’s been really incredible. He hasn’t missed much his whole career and coming back from some injuries that other guys might not have played with,” Whitehurst said. “So in the position of the backup quarterback, you’ve got to be ready at any time. It’d be surprising if he went out there and got hurt, really, because he’s such a tough guy. But if there’s an opportunity there, you’ve got to be ready to go.”
Whitehurst, just like Rivers, will get to know new receivers like Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal in the coming months, rekindle a pass-catch relationship with Malcom Floyd and learn the moves of second-year player Vincent Brown, whom he saw make a couple catches on Monday Night Football last year. But for now, he’ll enjoy continuing many relationships he started when the team drafted him in the third round in 2006.
“You see all these familiar faces that you haven’t seen in a few years. A lot of guys are still here and it’s really exciting to see those guys. You weren’t sure if you were going to play with them ever again, you know?” Whitehurst said. “But seeing roster and training room and front-office people again, it’s been a little bit surreal and definitely very cool.”