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Sun., Jul. 19, 2015 7:30 AM PDT
Players react to Seau news
SAN DIEGO – Philip Rivers never was one of Junior Seau’s teammates.
Rivers, traded for during the ’04 draft, missed San Diego’s most decorated defensive player by two years.
With the exception of Quentin Jammer, a rookie during Seau’s last Chargers season, and Randy McMichael, a Seau teammate in Miami, it was the same story for many of the players, who knew of Junior’s impact if nothing else. A few of whom declined to comment on Seau, who passed away Wednesday in Oceanside.
“Although I knew, maybe I didn’t realize (the extent of) the people he impacted and the affect he had and how he was embraced in this community living here his whole life, really,” Rivers said. “Certainly it was quite impactful. The whole community felt that yesterday.”
Seau spoke to the team twice in recent years, once during an ’06 ceremony to announce his first retirement. Rivers, entering his first year as the team’s starting quarterback, remembers it as his first significant encounter with Seau the man.
“You really saw the passion, the energy. It was kind of, ‘Wow,’” Rivers said. “You obviously had heard the stories, how he practiced, how he prepared, the energy, how much he loved the game and loved people, and then you got a small glimpse of that there in those few minutes when he talked to us that day.”
Seau again talked to the team on the field last season when the Chargers announced his team Hall of Fame induction.
Several of the team’s current staff at Chargers Park worked for the team a decade ago and remember Seau. Chargers President Dean Spanos and the rest of his family remained close friends with Seau. Head Coach Norv Turner was offensive coordinator for San Diego in ’01 and Miami in ’03, practicing against Seau every day.
“When I first came here in 2001, we were putting the offense in and we had drafted LT (LaDainian Tomlinson) and we had drafted Drew Brees,” Turner said. “We’d go out and practice different plays and different formations and different shifts, and he would always sneak out and try to watch the offensive walk-through so he was never fooled or never behind, and then it kind of got to be a game.
“You felt like you were coaching against him like you might be coaching against a coach. You weren’t coaching against his playing ability. You were coaching against his ability to diagnose. Football was important to him. He wanted to be right and he wanted to win.”
The Chargers Park flag remained at half mast, a modest memorial collection resting at its base. The team returned to the field and weight room for its seventh of eight days in Phase I of organized offseason workouts. But just before noon, there wasn’t much of the usual football talk happening between the media and players, who headed to the tent to get lunch or the parking lot to go home.
Said Rivers on Thursday: “(The news) hasn’t really been talked about a lot today, to be honest with you. I don’t know if that’s so much out of respect (or what).”