SAN DIEGO – “It’s fans like you that are going to really appreciate when we get there and win that trophy for San Diego,”
The Chargers won the AFC West and made the playoffs in five of six seasons before missing out by a game in 2010 and 2011. It hasn’t deterred Rivers, who expressed confidence during a 59-minute exclusive conference call with season ticket holders.
Rivers has harped for weeks on how close San Diego is to its goal, citing the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants as teams that did slip into the playoffs the last two seasons and then won the Super Bowl.
“I certainly want to be playing in New Orleans in February,” Rivers said. “Before that, we want to win the AFC West. Everybody on the outside tends to talk about how our division is, that it’s not a very good division, but you’ve got to win the division. We haven’t done as well in the division the last two years, obviously, and that’s kept us out of the postseason.”
The quarterback, who already visits Chargers Park regularly to work out on his own, does an extensive film study every offseason. He watches every snap and completes a frank analysis of his own play, turning it into a specific focus or two for the next season.
While only halfway through the 2011 season in his self-study, Rivers already knows his main priority. Throwing for 4,624 yards and 27 touchdowns, Rivers made the fourth Pro Bowl of his career. But his 3.4 percent interception percentage was the worst in five years as the starting quarterback.
“I had way too many this season,” Rivers said. “If I can limit the turnovers, we’re going to win a lot more games. Single-digit interceptions for the season (in 2012), I think that’s a realistic goal and one that I can achieve.”
No. 17 has been bullish on the Chargers all offseason and hasn’t shied from talking about the Super Bowl as the goal. Sometimes, his sentiment goes, success is sweeter when it’s hard-earned.
“Y’all are going to be a part of it,” Rivers told the 4,394 fans listening in, part of an extensive and growing benefits package for season ticket holders. “It’s going to be that much more gratifying to say, ‘Golly, I was there when I met Jack Kemp’ as one of you said, and you can say ‘We won it in 2012.’
“I wish we would’ve done it this year and the last year and in ’06 when we were 14-2. We haven’t done it yet, but you’ve got to keep plugging along, because when we get there it’s going to be just as special and we won’t have any more what-ifs.
“There’s certainly a history here and a long-lasting tradition that you season ticket holders are a part of. We appreciate your support and we can’t wait for this year. We’re going to get it done at some point.
“The ones that are early as season ticket holders, keep sticking with us. The ones that have been with us for 20, 30 years, I know you won’t leave because you’ve been in for so long you want to be here when we get there. Believe me, we’re doing all we can to get there.”
The latter caught 60 passes for 1,106 yards, his second 1,000-yard season in three years. Jackson also added nine touchdowns and is a free agent after spending the first seven years of his career in San Diego. The Chargers applied the franchise tag to Jackson last season to keep the 6-foot-5 receiver on the roster.
“I want Vincent Jackson here,” Rivers said. “When you’re throwing the ball to him down the field and the plays he’s made for this team, there’s no question he’s super valuable to us. I’ve always supported Vincent and I think it’s well-known I’d love to have him here.”
PUTTING IT TO BED: It played and played like a broken record, particularly during San Diego’s six-game losing streak.
Reporters hammered the question home, many times in spite of having heard the answer just days ago.
“Philip, are you hurt? Is there an injury we don’t know about?”
A fan revived the inquiry Wednesday, and Rivers put the notion to rest a final time. The question stemmed from a physical collision Week 2 against New England that drew a roughing the passer penalty on a Patriots defender.
“I took a big hit and got the wind knocked out of me, but there was nothing that would qualify as an injury,” Rivers said, adding he was a little bruised but not hurt. “That was one of the bigger hits I’ve taken in my career and I certainly felt it. It certainly didn’t affect me in weeks past that.”
SALUTE TO CHAMPIONS: Two Chargers were honored Wednesday night at the 66th-annual Salute to Champions dinner.
Quentin and Alicia Jammer won the Ernest H. Wright Humanitarian Award, in part for their role in getting San Pasqual Academy a football field. The Jammer Family Foundation focuses on empowering disadvantaged youth in San Diego.
Weddle also was honored as one of eight Professional Stars of the Year. The group included Rachel Buehler (soccer), Dominick Cruz (MMA), J.J. Killeen (golf), Cameron Maybin (baseball), Arian Foster (football), Adrian Gonzalez (baseball) and Shaun White (action sports).