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Spanos Eyes Big Year for 2012 Chargers
The 2012 San Diego Chargers season is just around the corner, and perhaps no one is more excited about what the year holds than Dean Spanos.
Sitting in his office at Chargers Park, the team’s Chairman of the Board and President gave a frank and candid assessment of the Bolts, talking about the substandard previous two campaigns and the great strides the organization has made to get back to the postseason.
“We acknowledge the fact that the last couple of years have been disappointing to everybody, but we’ve never given up and we’re trying to do the best that we can,” he said. “We always try to do what we think is in the best interest of the club. We were very proactive in free agency this year and think that we had a very good draft, in particular with Melvin Ingram and Kendall Reyes. I think we’ve added some key players who are going to have an impact on our team this year. So we’re optimistic, but we’ll still have to go out there and do it. But this team’s ready for the challenge.”
A 3-1 preseason has whet Spanos’ appetite for what he hopes to be a big year. The exhibition season in general is an exciting time for Spanos, who enjoys seeing the hard work of a busy offseason pay off on the field.
“I always think the preseason is a great opportunity for the young players who are new to the squad to come out and show what they can do,” he said. “And it’s really great too for the coaches because you get the chance to see the players that we haven’t had the chance to see do what they do. And from that perspective it’s very helpful to the organization.”
Listening to Spanos speak, it’s clear that he has high expectations for the new players who have joined the team. The Bolts added 13 free agents to this year’s squad, and while each of them brings a different element to the Chargers, the one thing they have in common is the ability to lead and hold players accountable.
“Some of the veteran free agents we brought in have showed tremendous leadership in the locker room,” Spanos said. “And that’s so important. It’s an intangible you can’t really quantify but it’s something that you have to have in every locker room to be successful. And some of these free agents, they’re mature and they know what it takes to win coming from winning teams that have been to the Super Bowl.”
In addition to the veteran acquisitions, Spanos is also excited about all of the team’s rookies, not only the aforementioned Ingram and Reyes.
“I really like our rookies a lot,” he said. “The enthusiasm is always exciting obviously. They’re out there competing as hard as they can. I know the coaches are very excited about all the young rookies, whether they’re drafted or undrafted. It’s an exciting time for them obviously, and there are some great opportunities. We have a young left tackle in Mike Harris who has done an outstanding job because of an opportunity that was afforded to him. There are always openings that happen like that, so it’s a great chance for them to seize the moment and see what they can do.”
When asked about the biggest difference between last year’s squad and the one taking the field this Monday night in Oakland, Spanos didn’t hesitate to name the team’s defense.
“I think there’s been a tremendous amount of improvement on the defensive side of the ball. We brought in some veteran free agents, like Jarret Johnson who sets a great example. We also have a new defensive coordinator, John Pagano. He is going to be very instrumental in being successful this year. And there’s also Atari Bigby who brings a lot of experience at that position along with Eric Weddle. So I think we’ve really addressed a lot of needs on the defensive side of the ball.”
After contemplating his answer, Spanos also expressed his pleasure with the great strides made by the special teams unit over the past couple seasons.
“I think special teams are really improving as well,” he said. “Two years ago we had one of the worst special teams in the league, and I think Rich Bisaccia being here the last year or two has made a really big difference. And we are getting some better players in here in terms of return specialists.”
Still, Spanos noted that even with all the new players and improvements the team has made, it needs to remain healthy in order to contend in 2012.
“I think that the most important thing for us, and it’s been very problematic for the last couple years, is injuries,” he stated firmly. “You’ve heard it said many times – you have to be injury free, lucky and good. I think we’ve been reasonably lucky and reasonably good, but on the injury side we’ve had an inordinate amount of injuries the last few years at key positions that never came back. So you end up playing with your backups as starters early in the season, and it really takes a toll on you. So the thing I’m really hoping for the most is to stay healthy as much as we can throughout the season, and if there are injuries, that it’s only a day or two for the player and he can come back reasonably soon.”
Overall, Spanos’ optimism and excitement for the coming season is obvious while he explains the bright future he foresees for this year’s Bolts.
“Every season, I get excited this time of year,” he said. “It begins right now. Expectations are high and there’s a lot of enthusiasm. You can feel the electricity in the air and the fans are excited, so for me, I’m really looking forward to the coming year.”