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Mouton aims to follow Butler's blueprint

Posted Feb 2, 2012

The inside linebacker injured his shoulder during preseason play and missed his entire rookie season. Jonas Mouton watched Donald Butler recover from a training camp season-ending Achilles tear to become one of the team’s better players.

SAN DIEGO – An ice pack and a heavy ACE bandage appeared on Jonas Mouton’s shoulder so often they seemed like a natural part of his body.

Mouton regularly appeared on the sideline during practice in 2011 with his bulky attachment, standing near defensive coaches and learning what he could without taking the field.

A shoulder injury ended his season before it began. Instead of adding depth at inside linebacker, which was limited beyond Takeo Spikes and Donald Butler, Mouton spent his days rehabbing a shoulder injury and watching Butler become one of the team’s better defenders.

Butler, of course, tore his Achilles during training camp in 2010 and missed his entire rookie season. In 2011, he finished second on the team with 102 tackles and became the only player with a sack, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Butler also scored one of San Diego’s two defensive touchdowns.

The differences between Butler and Mouton’s rookie seasons don’t amount to much. Mouton was taken 18 slots higher in the draft and appeared in all four preseason games before injuring his shoulder in the final regular-season tune-up. Butler blew out his Achilles before the preseason opener.

But the fun-loving second-year linebacker offered a clear blueprint for the stern Mouton, which the latter referenced earlier this month.

“It was rough, man, but Donald Butler helped me out a lot. He told me how it was to miss your first year and come back,” Mouton said.

San Diego’s defense still features proven, respected veterans in Spikes, Shaun Phillips and Quentin Jammer. But last season marked a trend toward youth, which bodes well for the future if the Chargers’ young players can continue to develop.

Butler has two more years left on his rookie contract. Corey Liuget, another rookie starter in 2011 at defensive end, is with the Bolts through 2015. Vaughn Martin started 15 games opposite Liuget in his third NFL season and will return in 2012. Marcus Gilchrist and Shareece Wright, both rookie defensive backs last season, are in San Diego through 2014, as is Mouton.

“With the young guys that played this year and contributed, I feel like I could definitely see myself fitting right in with those guys,” Mouton said. “I had a chance to build a relationship off the field with a lot of the young guys that played.

“I think it’s going to be great. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get out there with all those guys and play next year. I’m excited.”

A steady tackler at Michigan, Mouton led the Big Ten with 117 stops in 2010. Expected to be an important cog on special teams as a rookie, he made 13 tackles and forced a fumble at linebacker in the first three preseason games. The initial prognosis was encouraging and the Bolts kept him on the opening day roster, but moved him to Reserve-Injured on Sept. 21 when his shoulder just didn’t get better.

“I guess the preseason doesn’t count, but I feel like that gave me a little insider experience to what the league’s about,” Mouton said. “I haven’t played in a real game yet, so I’m looking forward to it and I think I’ll be ready for it when it comes.”

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