Below are three takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley, tight end Donald Parham, Jr., tackle Trey Pipkins III and running back Austin Ekeler's media availability before Wednesday's practice:
Parham trending towards season debut
It appears Donald Parham, Jr.'s return to game action is on the horizon.
"We're trending that way," Parham said Monday in the locker room.
Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said Wednesday he was "encouraged" about the Chargers tight end, who suffered a hamstring injury during training camp on Aug. 6.
Parham has not played so far this season but was a full participant in Wednesday's practice. His addition to the offense could add to the passing game, as Staley spoke about his versatility and where he can line up.
"He's made a lot of big plays for us," Staley said. "For those of you that were here last year, you know his run-after-catch, whether it was keeper screens. The vertical element, whether it is outside as a receiver or at the tight end position in the seams, he can do a lot with the ball in his hands."
Aside from what he provides catching the ball, an area of Parham's game that Staley and the team found about last season was his blocking. His return to action helps in the run game, as his blocking could give them an extra boost.
"Last year, what we discovered, kind of by accident, is that he's a pretty darn good blocker, too, for being a former basketball player and at his height," Staley said. "He did a really good job for us blocking, as well.
"We're excited to get him back. He has worked really hard to get back," Staley added.
The third-year tight end is excited to get back on the field.
"It feels good," Parham said. "I feel like I'm getting the work back in, continue to build a role on this team, it's really exciting for me."
If Parham is active on Sunday, it will be the first time he'll play in a game since last December against Kansas City. He suffered a head injury in that game and had to be hospitalized.
It's been a long road back, but Parham talked about what he needed to do over the offseason to get ready to play again.
"It all started mentally," Parham said. "Making sure that I'm mentally tough enough to continue to play after what happened last year. Main thing was just building myself up, making sure I'm in the right frame of mind.
"The physical stuff is another problem for me. It was another day in the office kind of thing," Parham added.
Staley also provided an update on wide receiver Keenan Allen, who remains "day to day" with a hamstring injury.
Preparing for the Browns defensive line
This week's opponent, the Cleveland Browns, provide a difficult challenge for the Bolts, as they will line up against one of the premier edge duos in the league — Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney.
"[Garrett] and [Clowney] are one of the top edge tandems of the league," Staley said. "They are both outstanding players. In the run and pass, they are very disruptive. They are both long, big, fast. We're going to have our work cut out for us."
Garrett and Clowney, both of whom were No. 1 overall picks in their respective draft classes, have combined for 4.5 sacks so far this season. Garrett has played in three games and Clowney has played in two.
"I like how [Chargers Offensive Coordinator] Joe Lombardi describes these pass rushers: as werewolves. They got a couple werewolves on their side, you know, Clowney and Myles Garrett," running back Austin Ekeler said. "We'll have to have a plan for them when they're on the field absolutely because they are game wreckers, so when we have them on the field, we will be very aware and treat them with the respect that they've earned."
Right tackle Trey Pipkins III knows that they will have to be smart in their approach to preparation but adds that going against players of that magnitude gives them a chance to prove what they are capable of as well.
"We got to, gameplan wise, do smart things within our game plan to help us succeed in those aspects," Pipkins said. "Every time you get a chance to go up against guys like that, it's a chance to prove what you can do."
With Garrett in particular, his talent around the league is well known. Having the ability to win in many different ways, Garrett also has versatility in where he lines up, adding to the challenges he brings.
Pipkins talked about how to prepare for someone like that, emphasizing that focus is key.
"You just do a ton of film study," Pipkins said. "As much film study as you can do and then focus on fundamentals, focus on yourself, focus on what makes you good and what makes you successful and continue to do those things."
Another tough road environment
The Chargers are preparing to hit the road for the second straight week — and are doing so in a place Staley knows well.
Staley grew up in Perry, Ohio, which is just 35 miles from the Browns home stadium.
"I went to games at the old stadium. I have not seen a [Browns] game live at the new stadium," Staley said. "I know that it's right on the lake and that it is a great venue, for sure.
"With their franchise, in the last couple of years, they've really improved. Those fans are going to come alive when they have a team to root for," Staley added. "Right now, they have a team that is a quality team. They're improving. They're one of the top teams in the AFC. It's going to be an intense environment, for sure."
Staley also noted that Cleveland is "one of the top American sports cities there is."
The team will play against the Browns on the road for the first time since 2018, a game that they won by a final score of 38-14. Even though they haven't played in Cleveland since then, Staley and the team are no strangers to playing in tough environments.
Staley talked about the preparation for playing in an environment like Cleveland, adding that having the right guys is a big piece of it.
"Get the right guys on your team that know how to play on the road. That's what we have," Staley said. "We have guys that can go play anywhere and try to be ready for it. I think our group does a good job of playing in adverse situations.
"The way you have to do that is you have to have the right guys, and then you have to have that belief in one another. That's what we have on our team. That's why we feel like we can go into these tough environments and go compete at a high level," Staley added.
Running back Austin Ekeler, who was in his second year in the NFL the last time the Chargers visited Cleveland, remembers the energy in the stadium and looks forward to Sunday.
"I always love good energy in the stadium so, looking forward to it and it's something that we prepare for all year," Ekeler said. "Playing when we can't hear it's important that we're on our responsibilities when we're talking."
Cleveland will be another early season road test for the Chargers, and the team will have to prepare accordingly. Still, these opportunities to communicate as a team in these environments are what Ekeler considers special.
"All of our signs, our code, I think there's something that's pretty special about being in the huddle when it's super loud," Ekeler said. "We have to get as tight as this [media] huddle right here and Justin [Herbert] is yelling the play in the huddle.
"I think it's a pretty cool environment," Ekeler added. "I think it's pretty special, I know it's a memory I'll always remember just looking back."
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