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Seeing red

Posted Aug 5, 2010

The Chargers spend considerable time working in the red zone and go through their first night practice of camp at Qualcomm Stadium.

SAN DIEGO – The Chargers scored 28.4 points per game during the 2009 regular season, fourth in the NFL.

San Diego scored 51 touchdowns in 16 games. That’s a difficult achievement to reach without some big plays downfield.

But you can’t count on those consistently, and that’s when you’ve got to sustain and finish long drives. The defense, too, can swing an entire game with a stop inside the 20.

With that in mind, the Chargers spent several team practice periods in the crucial area of the field Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Our team knows how valuable it is to be successful in the red zone. We’ve had success down there and that’s been a big part of what we do,” Head Coach Norv Turner said.

The drills enable a competitive tone to emerge and add an extra element to practice, Philip Rivers said.

“We get going the first couple of days of training camp, just install and practice, practice, practice. Now we’re starting to get into some of the situational stuff,” Rivers said. “Get in the red zone, more third down stuff, two-minute as the week progresses. It’s very competitive. It’s tough to get in on our defense and we like to think we make it tough on them as well.”

OUCH: Linebacker Donald Butler, the team’s third-round draft selection this season, sustained an Achilles injury Wednesday during practice. He will miss the season.

NIGHT AT QUALCOMM: The Chargers ventured to Qualcomm Stadium on Wednesday night for a practice under the lights.

Many of the rookies experienced their home field for the first time. Kicker Nick Novak, a San Diego native, used to watch Padres games in the facility when it was Jack Murphy Stadium.

“I’m used to the environment, but I’ve never been on the field,” Novak said. “It seems like it would be perfect conditions. The wind’s pretty consistent. The surface is great. I just can’t wait until fans get here.”

The practice, which lasted about 90 minutes, included a nine-play drive with each quarterback and more red zone work.

“I see a lot of our young players improving. We’re getting a lot better on the defensive line and I really believe every day we’ve gotten better in the secondary,” Turner said. “We’re playing with a real sense of urgency and aggressiveness in the secondary and I really like it.”

NO SCORE: Turner reminded reporters Wednesday morning that he tries not to keep score during training camp.

Asked if he determines a winner during drills, Turner recognized that others may do so, but he’s not interested in keeping score.

“I’m interested in getting our guys better. Someone wants to say, ‘The defense won today,’ or ‘The offense won today.’ We’re trying to become the best team we can be,” he said. “What I try to promote is that we’re helping each other get better in all phases. I think our guys buy into that and handle it pretty well.”

SAD NEWS: Gary “Big Hands” Johnson passed away Wednesday at LSU Hospital in Shreveport, La., following a stroke he suffered July 20. He was 57 years old.

Johnson, chosen by San Diego as the No. 8 overall pick of the 1975 draft, played 10 seasons for the Chargers at defensive line and is a member of the team’s Hall of Fame.

BOLTS: Donald Strickland made a nice play to break up a deep pass against the second offense … Curtis Brinkley held onto a pass near the goal line despite a solid hit from Jyles TuckerAntonio Gates made several catches, but Randy McMichael had one of the more exciting grabs at tight end with a linebacker draped on him.


NIGHT PRACTICE WEATHER: Sunny, 67 degrees.

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