Less than 24 hours after their season came to an end, the Chargers faced the finality of it all Sunday afternoon.
Instead of getting ready for another playoff game, the Bolts instead cleaned out their lockers at Hoag Performance Center by filling trash bags and boxes.
The reality that the offseason is now here was tough for players to put into words, especially after a 27-0 lead in Jacksonville turned into a last-second loss.
"I don't even know if it's enough time yet to digest," said Drue Tranquill. "I was talking with my linebacker coach, I don't think it's anything you can put words to.
"As a competitor, you train your whole life for a moment to play for a world championship and to be up 27-0 and come out and lose, I can't say I've been apart of something that hurts that bad in my life," Tranquill added. "It's not something you can put words to, it's kind of something you have to feel and feel the hurt and pain of it and come back stronger."
Ja'Sir Taylor added: "It doesn't even feel real. We were planning on having this day off after a win and coming in next week to prepare for our next opponent. After last night, I'm kind of lost. I'm free to go but I'm still sitting here at my locker waiting to pack up. Just trying to soak it all in and say goodbye to all the guys."
Morgan Fox offered his perspective after sitting through a five-hour flight and trying to sift through his thoughts.
"It's still tough. It doesn't get any easier, when you look back and reflect on it, it sucks," Fox said. "We didn't make enough plays when we needed to and they came out firing. You don't want to lose and you don't want to lose a game like that.
"It sucks, five hours after you lose, it's definitely not ideal," Fox added about the trip home. "Going on a plane, going home, thinking about everything that happened, how it happened, it's just not easy."
Browse through live action photos of the Bolts Wild Card round playoff matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars
The harsh reality was even more difficult to stomach given that the Chargers took a 7-0 lead less than 90 seconds into the game … and held that advantage until the final buzzer.
Alohi Gilman said he was "still processing" what transpired against the Jaguars.
Others were in a similar type of headspace, and said they planned on using the Wild Card round loss as fuel for the offseason grind.
"Bittersweet. Losing that way, it really doesn't well with me. I feel like we should have won," Joshua Kelley said. "But you can't change the past so you have to look toward the future and hold yourself accountable and get better."
Derwin James, Jr., added: "I still feel the same. I'm still in the same space. It still stings, it still hurts. Use it as motivation for next year and get better."
Corey Linsley gave a veteran view of the situation, noting that the tough ending doesn't overshadow the fact the Bolts took a step forward this season by making it to the postseason.
"Obviously not how we wanted it to go, especially in that fashion. But it is what it is, man," Linsley said. "You have to use it as motivation and learn from it.
"At least we're a step further than we were the year before," Linsley added. "You take what positives you can out of it."
Another veteran, Joey Bosa, said the toughest part about Saturday night's outcome is that bond that was built over the course of a season.
And that tight-knit atmosphere was apparent Sunday when Bosa said that there wasn't any reason to point fingers after the loss.
"We were talking about it … 'What happened?' Well, everything happened," Bosa said. "It wasn't one play. Everybody had a part in it."
As the Chargers begin to prepare for the 2023 offseason, Austin Ekeler perhaps summed up the emotions in the locker room better than anyone.
"It's a love-hate relationship with football," Ekeler said. "You love playing the game, hate when you play bad, hate when you lose.
"That keeps you in the past because you see what you built up to, you're proud of that," Ekeler continued. "But you're also in the present and whatever is going on now is probably going to control your feelings.
"That was that was the first time we've been in the playoffs in a minute and for us to go out there and play like we did in the first half and lose it, we have sick feeling because we know we could have easily beaten that team," Ekeler later added. "And so, so much goes into getting to that moment and now we're going to have to go through a whole offseason, we're going to have to go through everything we just went through again to hopefully get another chance to play."
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