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Loaded backfield

Posted May 28, 2010

Sproles returns from sore hamstring, practices with Mathews for the first time.

SAN DIEGO – Darren Sproles practiced Thursday after the team held him out on Wednesday due to a sore hamstring.

“An extra day helped,” he said. “It felt good to get back out there with my teammates. Yesterday was killing me that I couldn’t be out there with them.”

Sproles and first-round pick Ryan Mathews split carries with the first team in their first practice together.

Mathews’ size and power contrast with Sproles’ shifty style. The quick Sproles looks forward to sharing the backfield with someone that can make the team better, he said.

Fullback Mike Tolbert continued to get multiple carries as well.

Head Coach Norv Turner said Tolbert is a capable running back and that he has a chance to carry the football depending on the flow of the season.

GATES TALKS: Tight end Antonio Gates returned to San Diego on Thursday after visiting a doctor about his foot.

Gates consulted with the same doctor that handled his 2008 surgery, this time about his right foot, as a precaution. He said the doctor advised him to stay off the foot for 2-3 weeks.

ROOKIE SPOTLIGHT: It seems like the group of undrafted rookie receivers sees the ball more each practice.

Buster Davis, who performed well in OTAs and the first practice of Mini Camp, was held out of Thursday practices following a collision with Eric Weddle on Wednesday.
 He’s expected to return when OTAs resume June 8.

Rookies Jeremy Williams and Ernest Smith along with Gary Banks worked with the first offense in his absence.

Turner continued to say it’s too early to pick one out of the crowd, but likes the group of young players his scouts have assembled.

“I really believe we’ll come out with a couple guys that will have careers in this league,” he said.

Said Williams of working with Philip Rivers and the first offense: “It is exciting, but at the same time, I’ve got to be on top of my stuff. They’ve got their own little mode and they’re very fluent with it. I just try to make sure I know everything as best I can and just go as fast as I can.”

Banks, a member of the Chargers’ practice squad the last two seasons, became the only receiver participating in Mini Camp on Thursday with experience within San Diego’s offense.

“If those other guys were here, my reps would be cut way down, so I’m just trying to take advantage of everything that’s thrown my way right now,” Banks said. “(Rivers) is the quarterback here, so whenever you get an opportunity to get in there with him and get on the same page as he is, that can only help you.”

OUTTAKE OF THE DAY: Rookie receiver Seyi Ajirotutu brushed past a cornerback’s knee after making a catch during red zone work, causing him to lose his balance, hop a few times and roll into the end zone.

One of the defensive players, watching from the sideline, said, “I see you, Big Baby Davis!” in reference to Boston Celtics forward Glen Davis, who struggled to maintain his balance Wednesday in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals after taking an elbow from Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard.

NOT SO FAST: Donald Strickland broke in front of Bryan Walters for an interception during 7-on-7s, causing a stir among his defensive teammates.

“It’s always nice (for the defense) when (the offense) repeat(s) the play!” Rivers said.

He completed 7-of-9 passes in the drill, including several to Williams, who beat double coverage and got his feet down in the corner of the end zone on the most notable.

BOLTS: For the second day in a row, Smith caught a deep ball during 1-on-1s in the end zone 40 yards downfield, then made a nice adjustment on a shorter pass behind his left shoulder … Mathews spent time working with Running Backs Coach Ollie Wilson on pass protection … Kris Wilson, enjoying more reps in Antonio Gates’ absence, caught a pass behind Stephen Cooper’s helmet in the back of the end zone … Paul Oliver came on the field when the first defense switched to a nickel package … Cort Johnson earned a high-five from Turner after he uncorked a floater that made Darren Sproles back up during a special teams period. Johnson consistently sailed punts longer than 45 yards.

PRACTICE WEATHER: 67 degrees, partly cloudy (a.m.); 71 degrees, mostly cloudy (p.m.)

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