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Why Pride Makes its Case for this Chargers Unit
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Saying a team is playing for pride once its postseason hopes have been eliminated can be one of the biggest clichés in all of sports. But the tight-knit Chargers are committed to playing a complete game on Sunday, wanting badly to defeat their rival Oakland Raiders in front of a packed Qualcomm Stadium. As a result, the Bolts aren’t repeating a common mantra when they say they are playing for pride in Week 17; they truly mean it.
“As a player in the NFL, you don’t want to lie down no matter what the situation is,” said Le’Ron McClain. “We want to go out on a good note against a rival with a win to end the season. We want to leave with a good taste in our mouths. This is the last time that all these guys as a whole will be together as a team, and we want to take advantage of that. So we’re going to come out on Sunday like it’s a playoff game so we can look back at ourselves in the future and be happy about how we ended things.”
The team needs to look no further than the effort they put forth last week against the Jets for motivation. Head coach Norv Turner is proud of the way the Chargers responded in their first game since officially being eliminated from the playoffs.
“I don’t buy into the mindset of not playing for anything because last week, our guys obviously didn’t have the motivation of playing for the playoffs or knocking someone out of the playoffs,” said Turner. “A bunch of guys have played as well as they’ve ever played. And defensively, there’s obviously a lot of effort being spent. I’m proud of what our guys have done in terms of preparation and continuing to go… So every time you go out, you have something to play for. These are the best competitors that I’ve been around. When they go play, they play.”
Defensive coordinator John Pagano echoed those sentiments, as he too is proud of the way his defense responded given the situation they are in.
“That’s the men in that room,” he said. “Defensively, that’s been our mindset all year. That’s been the mindset since we started OTA’s that we want to go out and out-execute an offense, hustle to the football and bring a physical mentality to the game. That’s something that they try to do week in and week out and it shows. The good thing about these guys is there’s never a doubt in their mind how they’re going to play. They always show up on Sunday and they’re going to give it their all.”
Another reason why the team will be playing with pride on Sunday is because as professional competitors, losing is never a viable option. A defeat no matter the scenario is the worst kind of deflation.
“I feel like I’m one of the biggest competitors there is,” said Danario Alexander. “I hate to lose. It doesn’t matter the importance of a game, I am going out there to win. I take pride in myself. I grew up with three brothers in a highly competitive household. I kind of took that over to how I play today. The season hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to, but that doesn’t mean my competitive level is any less.”
The outcome of Sunday’s game will have little bearing on the overall standings given that the Chargers can’t make the playoffs and are locked into second place in the AFC West, but, it clear that it still means a lot to the Chargers players competing in it.
Another reason the season finale means so much these players is because this 2012 Chargers team is remarkably close. Despite a disappointing season, the team has remained very tight, and as a result, are sad to part ways with each other following Sunday’s season finale.
“This is the last time that this team that is here today will play together,” said Philip Rivers. “It is always a little emotional to me every year. When you are in the playoffs you don’t know what week that is going to be. When this is the last week, it is hard. You put in a lot of time--in this case, maybe six years--with a group. This particular team, we’ve been going since April. We are all going to scatter. Who knows how many will be back in four months… It is a tough week, but obviously one I always try to enjoy the heck out of because we will certainly remember it. It is going to be sad in a lot of ways on Sunday and in a lot of ways it will be very exciting to go out and finish it the right way.”