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A Conversation With: Chargers Special Teams Coordinator Ryan Ficken

Ficken Convo With

Ryan Ficken is back with the Bolts. recently chatted with the Chargers Special Teams Coordinator to get his thoughts on staying on Jim Harbaugh's staff and expectations for Year 3 in powder blue.

Here's our 1-on-1 conversation with Ficken:

Welcome back! Let's start off with your return, how excited are you to be back with the Chargers for Year 3 and beyond?

"Definitely excited to be back here, especially under this organization, with the Spanos family having the belief in us and the job that we're able to do and obviously be a part of this future here. Just real exciting with Coach Harbaugh at the helm and just being able to dive in and learn his philosophy and the way he wants to go ahead and have things conducted here. Definitely exciting for us."

You're not a big social media guy, but what does the positive reactions from fans mean to you?

"You know, it means a lot. But that fan support obviously doesn't come unless we have success on the field. It's great to know that we are supported but again, if we don't have a success with our players on the field and get the support system throughout the organization, it's tough to get that. But our fans here are very smart and they understand the game. We appreciate their support."

You mentioned Coach Harbaugh. What's been your early interactions with him and kind of that philosophy he wants to build?

"He's obviously a great football coach and his track record and resumé speaks for itself. I think that's what was so exciting because he does it a different way which I'm excited to learn. One thing that really was intriguing about him was the fact that he wants us to take in all the information and just whatever way — it doesn't have to be this way or another way — just whatever way allows us to be successful and to win football games. That's what he's all about and can't wait to go ahead and learn from him."

The Los Angeles Chargers on Wednesday announced Ryan Ficken will return as the Special Teams Coordinator.

A broad offseason question here, but how do you look back at last year while turning the page to 2024?

"I think it's real important to go ahead and step away for a couple of days just so you can get refresh. And then you come back at it when you're recharged up. Then you start evaluating and really dissecting, 'What did we do well? Do poorly?' Some things come up you forget about. Like, 'Actually, we did some good things here and this is why we did it.' It's good to learn off that. So, just learning as much as what we did good and throughout the season. I think it's very important to start watching other teams and studying them across the league and seeing how you can go ahead and improve and you can incorporate what you like or don't like. And with Joe [Hortiz] now in the fold with his staff, diving into free agent reports and the draft. I love his philosophy too, with Coach Harbaughs in terms of just trying to improve our team. Just making sure we can continue to uncover every stone and looking for players that are going to give us an edge."

You have completely turned around the Chargers aura on special teams. What are you most proud about that as you enter Year 3 here?

"Just being able to have an impact on those guys, the special teams guys. You hear about years past but maybe there wasn't a lot of pride in, you know, the craft. I know we didn't achieve the success in terms of the win-loss record. But just that our guys did some great things that the Chargers haven't done on special teams here for awhile. I was proud of those guys where they feel a sense of pride. And it wasn't the first-year success that they had. I thought the second year, to keep improving when teams know we've had success and then they attack our guys a certain way. For our guys to respond and still continue to have success, I think that says a lot in terms of proving it. At the end of the day, it's still about wins and losses. We've got to continue to be better in situational football to find ways to help our offense with short fields and our defense with long fields."

Assistant special teams coach Chris 'Beep' Gould is also back with you. What do you love about having him on staff with you?

"Man, 'Beep' is a phenomenal coach and I know he's just one opportunity away from being a special teams coordinator. I think he's ready for that opportunity and his time was will come. The thing about that's great about him is he's all in on whatever his role is, he wants to be the best coach no matter what the situation is, not only for himself but also for this organization and for the players. He does a phenomenal job and I've learned a lot from him as well. It's more of like it's a partnership with each other and I think we have a good rapport working with each other and with the players. And he's not just a specialist coach or outside edge guy working with the gunners. He does a great job in all positions and I really value his opinion. I'm just excited and fortunate to be able to work alongside him."

Cameron Dicker is an exclusive rights free agent. The hope is that he is back, but what has impressed you about him early in his career?

"He's had success that rivals any Chargers specialist out there in terms of kicking and maybe throughout the NFL history. A true pro, he approaches and attacks this game with the mindset to be the best. I love his demeanor and the way he approaches the game, too, because he doesn't live and die on one kick. Even if there's a great kick, he just finds a way to try to know how he can improve it and then he moves on to the next one, miss or make.

I also think that with all his success, he understands the role of his teammates — with Josh [Harris] being the pro that he is with almost perfect snaps that allows JK [Scott] to handle it nicely to be able to put it down on the spot with the right tilt and the right timing to allow him to do his job. He appreciates those guys more than most and you can also say that with the line being able to protect for him. But he's done a great job, more than what we asked of him. He's got a lot more to accomplish, too."

How much do you appreciate the leadership and reliability Josh and JK bring to your group?

"Oh man, so much. I give them and all the players the credit. It's their team, it's their unit and that's what I try to instill in these guys … have some player accountability. We have player-led meetings which Josh runs. When we first signed Josh here, I told him I wanted him to be the captain of not just our units but on the team and in the locker room. He's been that in more, you know, I know the first year he wasn't a captain, but the last, this past year he was a captain.

"And then JK, he's got unbelievable talent in terms of skill. His one trait that's just dynamic and elite out of anyone is his hang time and. We talk about that hang-distance ratio and he's exceptional at that. He gives us the opportunity either force for a catch or net it. What we talk about is 'punt what you net,' meaning no returns and he allows us to go ahead and do that at a high level. And even his miss hits are sometimes still elite punts. He's a great weapon for us."

Derius Davis looked like a star returner as a rookie. How did you evaluate his rookie year?

"He had a really good rookie year with the success that we had in terms of returns. But like I told him at the end of the year, we left a lot of yards out there and he would agree. We could have averaged around 20 yards a return [on punts] and he's capable of doing that with these guys that are blocking for him. He's the first one to admit that he couldn't have had the success if it wasn't for his guys blocking for him. He improved so much coming here. We thought he was very explosive with the ball in his hands and that's why we end up drafting him. But way he went in and learned how to kind of track the ball on the fly and correct proper mechanics in terms of the ball hitting the ground a lot. He really made it a point to learn all that stuff. He's a fast learner when it comes to special teams. Just a dynamic, dynamic weapon for our team."

Any other young guys catch your eye on special teams last year?

"Well, Nick Niemann isn't a rookie but everyone knows him and how good he is. I think Deane Leonard has got it and can be a special player. He's a difference maker. Excited for him and Ja'Sir Taylor, who is a solid core contributor as well. I know this guy was hurt but Raheem Layne — this guy is a football player and I'm excited to see where he goes. Daiyan Henley is all ball and has all the physical traits and. I told him I did a bad job because I just gotta cut him loose and just allow him to go play so he can be able to take that to the next level. Love AJ Finely, he can do everything now. We knew that he was talented and we just had to figure out a place for him, but he's so versatile in terms of what his role is. He's just a Swiss Army knife.

"There's a strong nucleus that we're excited to develop and a big draw to coming back was that — there's a lot of special teams coaches that spend their whole careers to get two or three specialists. I consider the Big 4 the kicker, punter, snapper and the returner. We have four elite guys in my mind at the top of their game. Very excited about those guys and the rest of the core with some really strong leaders"

Final question for you, what do you want you first message to be when players return in April?

"Last year was last year and let's start from scratch. We're starting from Day 1. It's gonna be all about fundamentals. And if this is your third year in this system, you just got to find a way to still learn something new because we can always improve. We're going to start back at the basics because nothing is given to us and it's a clean slate for everyone. These previous two years don't matter and it's about what is in front of us."

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