Below are three takeaways from podium sessions before the Chargers 18th training camp practice:
Murray grateful after return from injury
Chargers linebacker Kenneth Murray, Jr., faced adversity in his second NFL season, with injuries limiting him to 11 games with six starts. But Monday was a step in the right direction for Murray, as he was able to return to the practice field for the first time this offseason due to an ankle injury.
The third-year linebacker spoke to media members Tuesday and went into detail on how he's handled adversity, plus his approach to the 2022 season.
"I truly believe that adversity comes and it either makes you or breaks you," Murray said. "My life and who I am, I choose to use that to forge me into what I become today.
"Like I said before, I thrive on going out there and showing that every day," Murray added. "That's just how I feel about this season and how I am approaching that this season is just every day just responding and showing who the hell I am. Period. That's just how I feel."
During the 2020 season, Murray set a team record for most combined tackles by a rookie in a single season with 107, surpassing the mark set by Derwin James, Jr., back in 2018. Murray said he's 'taking advantage of every opportunity' in his return to the practice field.
"Honestly, I truly do believe that everything that I've been through up to this point has been preparing me for this moment," he said. "That's why I would say before I come out here with a grateful heart, trying to just take advantage of every opportunity. I attack every day as that."
Chargers Defensive Coordinator Renaldo Hill said Murray's return to the field was a welcome one.
"We're excited to get Kenneth back," Hill said. "I've been seeing him in the meetings going through all of the checks and going through the adjustments there, and now we get a chance to get him on the field.
"It really adds some more depth at that linebacker position. He's a competitor," Hill added. "He's been wanting to get out of there. So, we get a chance to see him out there in practice today in 7-on-7. We're all excited."
Hill: Chargers defense feels James' presence
Monday's practice also featured the return of James to team drills. James returned to both the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 team periods for the first time in training camp.
Hill smiled ear-to-ear when describing what the defense has looked and sounded like since adding James back in the mix.
"You felt him from Day 1," Hill said. "He was itching, even in the 7-on-7 period. We we're trying to make sure we gave him the right reps, so we kind of held him out of Play 1.
"I had to hold on tight to make sure he didn't get off the handle," Hill continued with a laugh. "But he was a pro about it, like he always is. Once he got out there, you felt the difference immediately. He brings that leadership, he brings the Alpha mentality to it.
"The guys feel it, and they were excited when they knew that he was going to be back at practice," Hill added. "He definitely adds a different element for us. We're just excited that he's here and available, ready to roll."
Lombardi talks backup RB competition, Horvath's versatility
The backup running backs continue to be a focal point of camp.
With two joint practices and two preseason games in the books, Chargers Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi gave his evaluation on how Joshua Kelley, Larry Rountree and Isaiah Spiller are performing.
"So far, no one's really separated, but they're all running hard," Lombardi said. "We just have to keep working through it.
"A lot of times, when you're in a situation like that, you get a feel for who's got the hot hand, and that can change from week-to-week, and the style of game may change who you're playing," Lombardi added. "Those guys, they know what to do, they run hard, and I think that they'll all be positive players when their number is called."
Another rookie who has caught Lombardi's eye is fullback Zander Horvath, a 2022 seventh-round pick. Horvath has shown plenty of versatility in camp as the former college running back learns the fullback position and contributes on special teams. Lombardi spoke highly of what Horvath has brought to the Bolts offense.
"He's a willing guy. He goes in there and hits. It is a new position for him and some of these things are a little bit new," Lombardi said. "We had an outside zone play where he's leading from the backfield, and really got the same look three different times from the Cowboys, and each time he was getting better at it.
"He's just a guy that the more reps he gets, the better he's going to be. He has athleticism, that's a big positive," Lombardi added. "I think he's a guy that can — I mean, he did it in college — you can hand the ball to him from a tailback position or a one-back position, so it gives you some personnel flexibility. I think he's smart. He has all of the makeup you want. Again, another guy that we feel real optimistic about."
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