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Highlights from Telesco's Combine Press Conference
All eyes were on General Manager Tom Telesco as he took the podium at Lucas Oil Stadium Thursday afternoon. After a tremendous rookie season at the helm, everyone wanted to ask the GM for his opinion on all things Bolts.
Here are a few highlights from Telesco’s informative session.
* Being that it is the NFL Scouting Combine, everyone is draft crazy. As such, the media was quick to give Telesco props for his tremendous draft last season. Here is what he had to say about the Chargers 2013 Draft class:
“We were pleased with the group this year. Our first three picks (D.J. Fluker, Manti Te'o, Keenan Allen) stepped in and played starter roles for us, which we needed this year. We weren't expecting all three to have to step in and play as many snaps as they did, certainly with Keenan. But we were happy with the group. We saw progress throughout the year. The one nice thing is usually rookies hit that rookie wall around Thanksgiving. Those guys, even Tourek Williams and Brad Sorensen who didn't play as much, did a really good job of being ready for the whole year.”
* Some in the media have floated the idea of Nick Hardwick possibly retiring. Telesco plans to operate under the assumption that’s not the case:
“We're expecting him to play next year until told otherwise. Obviously, he's a big part of the offensive line. A true team leader, a rock inside, and a guy we'd definitely love to have back.”
“There are a number of decisions we have to make. I wouldn't say we're flushed with cap space this year. Those are discussions we're going through. That's part of the offseason program. All 53 guys aren't always back… (so) we've got some decisions to make on a number of guys.”
* With a future Hall of Famer in Antonio Gates and one of the top up-and-comers in Ladarius Green, Telesco gives his thoughts on the Chargers tight ends:
“We thought we had a really good group this year. Antonio, even at his age, we thought he played at a very high level this year, both as a pass receiver and even blocking on the line of scrimmage. That was great to see. Ladarius is a great complement. He still has room to grow, and he's still getting better. But as you saw this year, he's got the chance to make some plays downfield. And we had John Phillips, who gave us a lot of dirty work around the line of scrimmage. As a group, we were really happy with those three guys.”
*Danny Woodhead was one of the top free agency additions in the league last year. The general manager talks about what went into the decision to bring him on board:
“We were looking for a couple things. One thing we were looking (for was) to be a little more dynamic on offense with a little more playmakers for Philip Rivers. We thought Danny could give us that dynamic. What's underappreciated with him is how good a pass protector he really is. He isn't just a third-down back. We can use him in a lot of roles. We just felt Danny fit into our culture very well. He loves football, has a passion for it, is very smart and loves to practice. Every day he has a smile on his face. He fit everything we were looking for in a player, and the coaches did a great job using him in a number of different roles .We got some production from him this year.
*Whenever people talk about finding draft studs outside the first round, Keenan Allen’s name is top of the list. After all, that is what happens when you go from a third round pick to the Pepsi Next Rookie of the Year. Telesco explained why he felt Allen was able to be so effective so early on in his career:
“It is a difficult position to come in and play early. I've always said quarterback is the hardest (but) receiver is probably second hardest. There are a lot of things that go into it. Some is Keenan. He does have some natural football instincts that help, but a lot of it, too, is you have great coaching from Fred Graves, our receivers coach. And obviously, with Philip Rivers as your quarterback, a lot of effort goes into practice and working with him and working on the timing. It's not just game-day, and it's not just during practice. It could be before practice or after. I think all those kind of go into helping Keenan and really, just receivers in general. You see in college there's a lot more spread offense. They're running a lot more routes. A lot more balls are thrown to them. That may help a little bit. I think it was the people around Keenan that probably helped him a lot.”
* Of course, people also raved about the Bolts’ first round pick last year, D.J. Fluker. The general manager tells us the important impact the big offensive tackle had on the team in his rookie season.:
“He stepped in from Day 1, and it wasn't too big for him. I can tell you that. From the first day of OTAs, for a rookie, he stepped in. The on field part of it — he's very talented, so that comes. But the preparation part on our level is much different, and it wasn't too big for him. I think the sky is the limit for him right now.”
* Even though it was his third NFL season, Telesco sees Vincent Brown’s 2013 campaign as if it was his rookie year, encouraged about the future of number 86:
“I know he's been in the league for a couple years, but really, as far as heavy playing time, it was almost like a rookie year for him. He ended up with 40-something catches. (He’s) definitely good moving forward. He's shown some promise. He finishes some tough catches downfield, and he's a good route runner, so we'll see where it goes.”
* Finally, Telesco talks about the future of Dwight Freeney, whose season came to an unfortunate end in Week 4 last year :
“Well, he wasn't happy when he got hurt — I can tell you that. He handled it well. It's tough for a guy like him. When you have such a long career in Indianapolis, he was happy to come to San Diego and prove some people wrong. He looked very good early in the year and, unfortunately, had a tough injury. He's still rehabbing. We'll see where it goes from there. But it's still early. It's February. We'll see. Just trying to get him healthy. He's still under contract next year.”