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A clean slate

Posted Apr 13, 2010

One of the beautiful things about the NFL is that players like Nathan Vasher can get an opportunity at a clean slate and a fresh start.

Vasher’s career in Chicago got off to a flying start. As a rookie he intercepted five passes and racked up 177 return yards, the second-highest total in the NFL that season, and it included a 71-yard touchdown return against the San Francisco 49ers. Just a year later, Vasher upped that total to eight, the third-highest season total in Bears history and he returned another pick for a TD, this one for 45 yards against the Green Bay Packers. Then, in what may sound eerily familiar to Chargers fans, Vasher returned a missed field goal in another game against the 49ers 108 yards for a touchdown. It was an NFL record until broken just two years later.

Then Vasher tacked on three more interceptions in 2006, giving him 16 to start his young career in the “Windy City,” the most by a Bear since Charlie Sumner in the late 1950s. But that’s where the good times stopped rolling for the Chargers’ new cornerback. For the next three years, Vasher managed just one pick per season and in March 2010, the Bears decided to part ways with their former star cornerback.

“I just think my time there ran its course,” explained Vasher. “I definitely understand that football is a business and nothing really stays the same and change is good. I’m excited to be in a situation where they want me to be here.”

The Chargers wasted little time in signing Vasher to a two-year deal. He brings the experience of starting in a Super Bowl after the 2006 season and playing in a Pro Bowl after that monster ’05 season.

“I’m so excited about the opportunity,” said a smiling Vasher. “The team is already so good and they have so many great athletes. I just want to be a player who can come in and contribute and try to help this team get to the next level.”

Another enticement in coming to San Diego was the opportunity to reunite with best friend and former college teammate Quentin Jammer. Though separated by two years, Jammer, a native of Angleton, Texas, helped recruit Vasher from Texarcana to the University of Texas. There they shared a special bond.

“In college I was one of the guys who would take a young player under my wing and try to mold him,” explained Jammer. “He was one of the guys I took under my wing in college and we continued to be friends. It’s good to get him back and it’ll be exciting to see him play in a Chargers uniform.”

Jammer knows that Vasher is a smart player who understands defenses and has a knack for being around the football. That’s one of the strengths of his game. And that tendency echoes soundly to Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, whom Vasher also played for with the Bears.

“Being able to come out and make plays on the ball and get more turnovers is what I can add to the secondary,” said Vasher. “I know that Coach Rivera thrives on pressuring the quarterback and because of that the defensive backs and all the guys in the secondary will have a chance to make plays on the ball to give it back to Philip (Rivers) and those guys on offense. If we can get three and outs and play with a lot of enthusiasm and go out there and have fun and play like kids then that’s when we’ll be at our best.”

For right now, Vasher is just trying to dip his toe into the water without getting all wet. He’s learning his way around Chargers Park and has been very respectful toward the players that the Chargers already have, and the winning tradition that’s been building in San Diego for the last few years.

“I knew it would be a perfect situation for me to get here and help out because the team is already so good,” Vasher noted. “With those guys being here and with Quentin being here and some other guys who I’m familiar with, it’s really just icing on the cake.”

One of the things that Vasher most eagerly awaits is a chance to get out onto the field at Qualcomm Stadium to show Chargers fans the level that he’s capable of playing at. He’s played at Qualcomm several times as both a Bear and Longhorn and he even recorded his first-ever sack against the Chargers, drilling Philip Rivers for an eight-yard loss in the 2007 season opener.

“I remember San Diego as having some very enthusiastic fans,” recalls Vasher. “Playing here, I know it gets loud and they really get into the game. San Diego definitely has some of the best fans in the NFL so I’m excited to get out there and play in front of them.”

One last bit of unfinished business for Vasher will be settled much sooner than later. When the NFL released its preseason schedule recently, none other than the Bears were slated for a visit to Qualcomm Stadium in Week one. Though insisting that he doesn’t harbor any ill feelings toward his former employer, it’s a pretty safe bet that Vasher will be ready to play when one of the most storied franchises in NFL history looks to put its paw print down in San Diego. For both sides it will be a chance to turn a page and wipe a slate clean, one that Vasher hopes to refill with new memories and big plays as a San Diego Charger.

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