Since being introduced as head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, Brandon Staley has had to wait 113 days to get on the grass with his new players.
"First time I've felt like a coach since January," he said.
Staley and his coaching staff took the field in Costa Mesa on Friday morning with 24 players for the start of rookie minicamp. One of the main priorities of the weekend, Staley said, will be relationship building among players, coaches and staff at Hoag Performance Center.
Second, is teaching the newest Chargers how he and his staff plan to function.
"There's so much that goes into a rookie's transition; from a routine standpoint, from a rhythm standpoint," Staley said. "Just learning how we operate from a meeting standpoint, then going onto the field, 'Hey, where do I line up? Where do we start stretch? Where's my individual? Where's my group period? Special teams?'
"All of those things, from a detail and an organization standpoint, we're all new, so making sure that everybody gets into that comfort zone so that they can be as good as they can be. This is a teaching camp. It's a teaching, learning few days. We're going to get this thing off the ground the right way."
Players wore t-shirts and shorts at practice, no helmets. It was the first time seeing first-round offensive tackle Rashawn Slater wearing No. 70 in the pros.
"It was definitely a lot, going out there on the field for the first time, getting in the huddle and hearing a lot of the terminology," he said. "I've got a lot to learn. I feel like we had a really good practice out there."
Second-round cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. said his focus this weekend is on the mental side of the game. After his decorated years at St. Thomas Aquinas High School and Florida State, the 21-year-old rookie with NFL bloodlines isn't concerned with his adjustment to the pros.
"I've been doing this all of my life," he said. "I feel like once I have it mentally, physically it will handle itself."
Check out the best photos from the Chargers Rookie Mini-Camp at Hoag Performance Center.
Samuel Jr. shared the field on Friday with a pair of former teammates, both drafted by the Chargers in the third round. Tight end Tre' McKitty was at Florida State before transferring to Georgia. Wide receiver Josh Palmer played with Samuel Jr. in high school before moving on to Tennessee for college.
Palmer is the only wide receiver in L.A.'s rookie minicamp.
"It's been a long four months of working out and training to be in this moment right now, and I know a lot more growth needs to happen," he said. "For just this weekend, I'm more interested in learning everything; learning all the coaches, learning the playbook and being on the same page as everyone else."
Staley called Friday's first practice "a dream come true." He said he wasn't nervous and that confidence comes with preparation. The head coach also knows he's not alone in his efforts to build a consistent winning program.
"We really have a great team here with the Chargers, and I think that's what probably gave me the most confidence today," he said. "I can look right, left, in front of me and behind me, and know that that's the way it should look like, that's the way a football team should look like. When you get around these players, that gives you even more confidence. I was just excited to get out there, as a team today, and compete."
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