How do you feel about what you’ve accomplished in the early part of this offseason?
I feel very, very good about our offseason so far. We’ve been very proactive in free agency, probably more so than in most recent years. I feel like we filled a lot of needs and we got better at those specific positions. Obviously time will tell, but we’re not done yet. There may still be a few more additions through free agency, but clearly the focus now is on the upcoming draft. I believe you’ll see a focus on the defensive side of the ball going forward, but you never know.
You just returned from the NFL’s annual meetings. In your mind, what was the most significant news?
I think there were a lot of very important issues, mainly a tremendous focus on the health and safety of our players and of course the integrity of the game. A lot of emphasis going forward is on the integrity of the game, which must be protected at all costs. Health and safety is first and foremost. The focus wasn’t just on the bounty issue. That was a big issue, obviously, but we spent a lot of time on any issues going forward that could have an impact on the integrity of the game; how to prevent that from being compromised. We owe it to the fans to preserve the integrity of the game.
The league recognized you at the meetings for your work with the Commissioner’s Executive Committee and getting a new Collective Bargaining Agreement done. How did that make you feel?
I was fortunate enough to be part of the CEC, which was the committee that helped negotiate the final Collective Bargaining Agreement. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. I felt very proud to be part of something that was successful not only for the league, but for the players and for the game of football itself going forward. It was truly a great honor.
The “bounty” investigation involving the New Orleans Saints that you alluded to has been a major story. How appropriate were the actions of the Commissioner?
I think getting back to something that was said very early in the league meetings by the commissioner, and I believe it’s something that everybody supports as a league as a whole: health and safety takes precedence over everything, even including competitiveness. We have to protect our players at all costs. There has clearly been a focus on that and there will continue to be. There’s no room for bounties or anything like that in the league. It was clearly supported by all of the teams, from the coaches to the general managers to the owners, that this type of thing will never happen again.
You, A.J. Smith, Norv Turner and Ed McGuire were extremely busy early in free agency. How do you feel about what you accomplished?
I feel very proud of what we’ve accomplished so far. We ultimately won’t know how we did until the end of the season, but we spent several weeks trying to come up with a plan in terms of our needs, and then we earmarked certain players that we wanted to sign in free agency. For the most part we were successful in getting who we wanted to get. So I feel very good about coming up with a plan and being able to implement it, because it’s very easy to come up with a plan, but it doesn’t always work trying to implement it.
What newcomer excites you the most?
They’re all unique to themselves and I’ve had a chance to meet them all. I’m excited about all of them and I’m not trying to pick any favorite, but I’m looking forward to seeing what Le’Ron McClain can do and how he can help us. He’s an exciting character. Very charismatic. I think he’s going to be a great addition to our team and he will be exciting for our fans to watch.
Some fans are concerned about the loss of Vincent Jackson and Mike Tolbert. How do you feel?
I understand how the fans feel. I get it. Those are two players we would love to have had back. We surely made an attempt to get those players signed, but there comes a point where if you sometimes sign one player, you might limit yourself and your ability to get a host of other important players. It’s a balancing act and you have to decide what’s most important and what will make the best impact on the team going forward. Speaking specifically of Vincent, we clearly would’ve loved to have him back, but he chose to move on. If we had signed him, I think it would’ve really limited our ability to sign four or five of the free agents that we did get.
What more do you still want to add to the roster this offseason, either through free agency or the draft? You mentioned defense is a priority in your opinion.
I expect the focus going into the draft to be on defense. But that’s not to say, for example, that if there’s a great offensive lineman at an early pick, we wouldn’t take him, because our strategy and belief has always been you need to take the best player at the pick you have. It’s no secret we’ve said that a pass rusher and a strong safety are on our list, but so is another offensive lineman, among other spots.
The draft is less than a month away. With respect to your free agent signings and the needs that you filled, do you feel you are close to having the flexibility to take the best player available?
Sure. The more holes that you fill or positions that you fill, it makes it much easier for you to focus and narrow in on specific positions in the draft.
Can you give us an update on your efforts to bring a new stadium to San Diego?We are continuing to work with the community on plans for a multi-use facility, one that will work for not only the Chargers and Super Bowls, but also for other major events such as the NCAA Final Four. I think there is a consensus developing about the need for, and the merits of, such a multi-use facility.