When the Chargers' starting center, Mike Pouncey, exited early in the second half of last Sunday's game against the Broncos, Dan Feeney was the four-time Pro Bowler's natural replacement. Feeney, who moved over from left guard, already possessed plenty of experience playing center. On Wednesday, it was announced that Pouncey would miss the remainder of the season, securing Feeney's place as his stand-in.
"It was really helpful having (Pouncey)," Feeney said. "Unfortunately, he's is in the situation he is. It stinks for him."
Feeney added that he's ready for the opportunity and confident.
"It's the way it goes sometimes," offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said. "And maybe it worked out for the best. Feeney got a lot of that work in training camp and even in the preseason games."
The 25-year-old has also taken many snaps in practice since being drafted by the Bolts in 2017, giving his coaches and teammates confidence in his ability to take over.
"We felt all along that Dan could be a really good center, and he's worked at it," Whisenhunt said. "We have a lot of confidence in Dan and what he can do."
Whisenhunt said he was pleased with Feeney's performance at center last Sunday and, "(feels) good about that transition."
"He's got movement skills that you like at that position, and he's got good strength," Whisenhunt said, adding that Feeney's familiarity with the offense is crucial. "I think one of the big things is understanding the protections and the checks (in the) run game or (the) pass game…He's (been) as involved with that as anybody could be, (having stood) right next to the center in a lot of those schemes."
Feeney's offensive line-mate Michael Schofield, who attended high school with him, may be even more bullish on the team's new starting center.
"He's ready for this," Schofield said. "He's been in the offense for three years. We're all a hundred percent confident in his ability. He knows everything, (and) he's a smart guy."
Whisenhunt mentioned that Feeney has made major strides from last season, which has impressed his coach.
"He went through a tough stretch last year," Whisenhunt said. "That's not easy. And to go back into it this year and prepare the way he did. And he was playing really well for us before we moved him to center. You have (to) respect Dan because of the way he's worked and overcome that and (played) well."
Feeney's reputation as a hard worker is pervasive around the Chargers' facility.
Quarterback Easton Stick describes him as "one of the hardest workers we got," and Whisenhunt said that Feeney "works his tail off" on a daily basis.
Other Feeney factors include his infectious enthusiasm for football and fun-loving personality.
"First of all, he loves the game," Whisenhunt said.
"He's fun to be around," said Stick. "You can tell he's passionate about the game, (and) he loves his teammates. It's a really good energy that Dan brings every day."
And what kind of energy is that?
"He has a lot of mustache energy," Schofield says. "He's a great guy. (He brings) a lot of energy, (and is) just a good guy to be around. He's a good locker room guy."
Before Pouncey's season-ending injury, Feeney had been exercising with and learning from the veteran center and team co-captain nearly every day.
"(Pouncey) is an incredible leader," Feeney said. "You can learn a lot from him. He's been around (a lot) of big-name guys, (and) he's been around people with a bunch of different styles, so he can incorporate and teach me who he relates to."
Feeney highlighted Pouncey's ability to manage conflict and hold teammates accountable as leadership qualities he hopes to adopt.
"I think it's just how he reacts to situations (and) how he handles things… I feel like he was always pretty fair about those things. Sometimes he would be the bad guy and say something that not everyone liked, but you gotta do it, because that's what's best for the team."
Feeney is now entrusted with leading a young offensive line not only missing Pouncey but also two-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion Russell Okung. The group's tight-knit nature will help.
"I think we mesh together nicely off the field," Feeney said. "Everybody's buddies with everybody."