Below are three takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley, wide receiver Quentin Johnston, wide receiver Derius Davis and quarterback Max Duggan from Friday's media session after the first day of rookie minicamp:
Staley talks expectation of rookies
For the first time as members of the team, the Chargers 2023 NFL draft class took the field at Hoag Performance Center for the first day of rookie minicamp.
Over the next couple of days, the rookies are getting their first taste of the NFL doing some work on the field and meeting with coaches in the classroom.
Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley's message to the Bolts new rookies was straightforward, as he mentioned how this minicamp is a first for the newcomers.
"There's a lot of learning to do, so everything you're doing this weekend, you're doing something for the first time," Staley said. "Just learn as much as you can, work as hard as you can.
Staley added: "We're just going to try and make this a big-time teaching camp for them so that when they get started with the veterans on Monday, they feel like, 'Hey, I'm one of us.'"
Rookie minicamp is the first opportunity the rookies will have to see how the NFL works.
The transition is something that is different for the players and although it is just a weekend, Staley's expectation from the rookie minicamp is seeing how the rookies respond to a new situation.
"You just want to see, I think, how they thrive in the classroom," Staley said. "There are a lot of components to the weekend where they have to learn so much for the first time, besides just football. There's football in the classroom, there's football on the field, special teams, offense, defense, but then it's the weight room, the equipment room, the locker room. They just have to do so much for the first time.
"Just seeing how they absorb all that and seeing what type of professionalism they have, I think that's something that we're all looking for, that level of professionalism, that level of focus that you have to have," Staley added. "Then, you want that rookie class to take shape, that brotherhood with the guys that you come in with. There are a lot of things to do this weekend, for sure."
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Friday was the first look at first-round pick Quentin Johnston on the field, as he went through drills and caught his first passes as a Charger.
Johnston's expectations for himself this weekend mirror those of the coaching staff.
"Getting up to speed, but coming in and playing fast, as well as knowing what to do," Johnston said. "Act like I've been here before, that's the expectation that I have for myself. They just reiterated that to me."
Even in the short time in the building Staley hasn't been surprised by any of the rookies. He noted they have all been "as advertised" thus far.
There is a lot of work left to be done for the new first-year players, but this weekend marks the starting point.
"We did a lot of work on our draft picks and a lot of work on these undrafted guys, too," Staley said. "This is a good group of guys. [They are] as advertised. There's so much to learn about these guys as the spring goes on.
"We're not going to know fully about these guys until we start putting pads on, but it's a good group of young guys," Staley added. "They're exciting to work with. Like I said, a lot of work to do this spring."
Veteran WRs welcome Johnston
The Chargers wide receiver room wasted no time welcoming Johnston to the group.
On Friday, the first-round pick detailed his first interaction with veteran wide receivers Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Joshua Palmer.
After coming to Costa Mesa, the group all messaged Johnston. From there, the three receivers met him at his hotel, where they got to converse for a little bit.
"When I came down, actually, I got to meet them," Johnston said. "They hit me up, said that they wanted to meet up, talk, get to know me, as well as me getting to know them. It was a good experience."
The nature of the conversation was a bit of an introduction of what to expect as a new member of the Bolts.
But also, Allen, Williams and Palmer made tell Johnston just how close of a group it is.
"Getting me used to everything, as much as they could in that short period of time that we were talking," Johnston said. "Letting me know that we were all family. Letting me know what to expect. Kind of a crash course they gave me of what to expect, how stuff is run, a baseline so that I could get an understanding and feel for the football team, as much as I can at that point."
Johnston valued this opportunity to get to hear from players who have a lot of NFL experience, and learning from them is something he hopes he can continue to do to get better as a player.
"That's everything," Johnston said. "I feel like I came into a good situation, starting off initially under some guys that have been in the league, playing at a high level for a minute.
"I feel like I can pick a lot of their game, apply it to mine, then kind of expand from there," Johnson said.
The 2023 Chargers first-round pick will have plenty of opportunities to learn from Allen, Williams and Palmer as he begins his NFL career. His initial conversations with the trio is just the beginning.
But for the veteran receivers to go out of their way and do something like that is something Staley points to as testament to bond and culture that the Chargers have as a whole.
"I think the brotherhood that we have on our football team, and the culture that we have – and our best players are responsible for the culture, and I can't think of any superstar receivers in the NFL that I'd rather have than Mike Williams and Keenan Allen learning the way, and Josh [Palmer] is such a pro going into his third season," Staley said. "For them to do that, I'm not surprised. That's what you need from your leaders on our football team because that's going to accelerate the development of your young guys.
"I'm glad that that's happening," Staley added. "Q is going to be one of them in that room, for sure."
TCU connection on the field
The weekend of rookie minicamp is the first opportunity for almost all of the newcomers to get to know one another. With so many players coming from different schools, building the camaraderie is one of the parts of the weekend.
However, there was a group of players this year that were able to pick up where they left off in college.
Johnston and fourth-round wide receiver Derius Davis ran drills and caught passes from a familiar face in quarterback Max Duggan, who happened to be their quarterback at TCU. Friday almost felt like a TCU practice according to Johnston.
"It almost feels identical," Johnston said with a laugh. "I go out there and see the same guy lined up next to me and the same guy in the backfield. It feels like we're back in Fort Worth again."
The Chargers selected three players from TCU in the 2023 NFL Draft, the first time the Bolts took three teammates in a single draft since 1983.
The first day on the field as members of the Bolts was a Horned Frog reunion for the quarterback and the trio of receivers.
"I'm happy for those guys," Duggan said. "To see them get an opportunity and go onto the next level, it's fun. Obviously, the first day, you get to come in and it's a bunch of new guys and throwing with them.
"With Q and D.D., I know them a little bit and have some timing, but it was fun to be out there with them," Duggan added.
Having college teammates on the field for the first day of rookie minicamp not only could help with familiarity and timing, but as Davis pointed out, it can help them settle in a bit more.
"It helps tremendously," Davis said. "Like I said, I've played with those guys. It allows me to go out there and just have fun, to have that confidence going out there running the routes and catching the ball."
There's a lot of work and learning to be done from this point forward, but Staley is excited to have Johnston, Davis and Duggan who all come from a school that saw a lot of success.
"They're just off to a bigger head start, but I think that it's probably like them being freshmen at TCU, everything is brand new again," Staley said. "You may know each other, but everything you're learning is brand new, so you almost feel like a freshman again.
"What we like is that they come from a really successful program and they were three of the best players at their positions in the country," Staley added. "We like the makeup of all three of those guys, on top of their talent. Excited to join up with them."
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