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General Manager AJ Smith was active this past offseason, acquiring some of the top free agents and rookies available. As a direct result, this year figures to be one of the most competitive, intense training camps in quite some time as the roster is chock-full of elite talent.
“I can say there’s definitely been a change,” said tight end Antonio Gates. “You definitely see a sense of urgency. And when you look at each position, you have a handful of guys that can make plays, and I think that’s also different from the past. What that does is make the guy who’s considered the number one guy stay on top of his game, stay committed, and that holds everybody accountable …You’ve got to go out and work hard every day and prove that you deserve to be a San Diego Charger.”
That certainly was the case Thursday as the team held the very first full-team sessions of the 2012 season. The players had an extra pep to their step, and not just because they’ve been itching to get out on the field all offseason. Everyone is bringing their A-Game right from the get-go, fully aware that there are plenty of talented players waiting in the wings eager for an opportunity.
Quarterback Philip Rivers was quick to point out the difference in intensity so far this season compared to the past.
“It’s always been a competitive camp, and I think the guys enjoy going against one another, but I think this will be the most competitive camp we’ve had since I’ve been here,” he said. “There are a lot of good football players, one through 90, and there are a lot of guys competing. That’s what will help make us the best team, the guys that end up here at the end of the camp that form the roster at week one, they’re going to be a heck of a group, and we’re due to have a lot of great players and a lot of great competition.”
One person surely happy about the additions to the roster is head coach Norv Turner, who is thrilled to have a stacked arsenal of weapons to deploy on both ends of the ball.
“I have a better feeling of continuity with this group than I have felt over the last three years,” said Turner. “When I go out and work with these guys they have a real strong presence. The veteran guys who know what it is about to prepare and get ready such as [Le’Ron] McClain, [Ronnie] Brown, [Atari] Bigby…This is an exciting group of men who have a chance to become an outstanding football team.”
In order to become that outstanding team, the players must first learn to mesh together. As one of the incumbents and a leader on defense, safety Eric Weddle is taking it upon himself to build that chemistry.
“I want to get to know (the new players) and become friends and build that trust that bonds you out on that field,” he said. “It is a really tight-knit group, the most it’s ever been, so it’s enjoyable to come out here and work every day and push each other in every facet…When you bring in guys who have played there is maturity, sense of urgency, and a sense of pride. They all come from different teams and now they are here and they all want to win and prove that they are great players in this league. Each guy can help mold this team into what we want to become.”
With all the skilled players on the field, this year will be harder than ever to whittle down to the final 53 man roster at the end of camp. But despite the hard decisions looming down the road, Turner is happy to be in such a position.
“It is going to be exciting,” he said. “We keep 53 players and eight on the practice squad. We have 90 here and they all want to be a part of this team. Our goal as the coaching staff is to do everything we can to pick the 53 guys that make this the best football team. If any guy can contribute to this team at a high level, then we have to consider him.”
With a roster full of top-end talent pushing each other to the limits, the 2012 Chargers could very well be in store for a special season.
*Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates connected on numerous passes during 11 on 11 drills.
*Jarrett Lee hit Micheal Spurlock on two deep bombs as well.
*Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst had his leg run into and left practice early. He is still being evaluated. Tackle Jared Gaither also left early with cramps.
*Hall of Fame Quarterback Troy Aikman was in attendance.
*As a special thank you to season ticket holders, a number of them were allowed to attend the closed practice session.
*Saturday marks the first of many open practices to the public. Click here for a complete schedule.
*Don’t forget to use hashtag #sdtc12 when discussing the Chargers on Twitter. Read