If Derwin James, Jr., were to make a list of the things he despises, missing football games would be at the top of his list.
Actually, not being able to suit up could actually be its own list that drives the Chargers safety mad.
"One out of 10? It's like 100. I hate it so much," James said about watching from the sidelines. "It's part of the game but I hate not being out there for my team."
James has missed the past game-and-a-half with a hamstring injury. He said this week that the injury wasn't too serious and that it simply required a little bit of rest, something the Bolts Week 5 bye week certainly helped with.
Now, with the Chargers slated to open up the next stretch of their season on Monday Night Football against the Cowboys, James said he is planning on returning to the lineup in Week 6.
"I want to be out there with my teammates and help us win games," James said. "I'm happy to be back."
Back on the field, that is. Because even though James wasn't on the field for the past six or so quarters, he still made his presence felt in other ways.
"Energy. Bring the energy in different ways," James said. "There's energy in the locker room, on the sideline. Just making sure guys are ready to go that are in your position and make sure they see it how you see it."
On the field, James continues to be a do-it-all player. He can line up on every blade of grass and play multiple positions, something Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley makes sure to take full advantage of.
"He is always going to be everywhere," Staley said in training camp. "He's going to be at a lot of different places because that's how you have to use him. You have to use him as a weapon.
"We've built around him since I first got here," Staley added. "I just think the pieces that we've added around him on all three levels have allowed him to just shine in those roles more."
Chargers safety Raheem Layne added: "I just watch what he does. If he's doing it, it's got to be something right. You have to follow the vets in this league and he's a great example of that. He takes care of the younger guys. Just a good dude."
Chargers safety Dean Marlowe helped fill James' void by starting in a Week 4 win against the Raiders. A veteran of 62 career games, including 19 starts, Marlowe said he always admired James' game from afar.
But seeing everything up close has been extra special.
"We all know who Derwin is. He's a freakin' playmaker, an impact player," Marlowe said. "He can do it all — play deep, at the line of scrimmage, great blitzer, great tackler.
"But most of all, I think he's a great leader. Just to see how he goes about his preparation every single day, it's pretty cool to see," Marlowe added. "This is Year 6 for him, he's made Pro Bowls, been an All-Pro. Now that I'm here actually working with him, it's fun to play with someone like that."
James was voted a captain again by his teammates this summer, continuing what has become an annual rite of passage for the 27-year-old.
"I don't like it. I love it," James said. "I feel like it's an honor and privilege for my teammates to see me in that way. I feel like that comes with a responsibility."
James later shared what it means to him to wear the "C" on his jersey.
"Just be Derwin James. I know who this organization sees me as and I know who my teammates see me as," James said. "Every day I step up in this building, I already know what's expected on my plate.
"When I come into the building, I know what time it is from the first meeting we have. It's time to clock in and go to work," James added.
Check out the best photos from the Chargers Tuesday practice at Hoag Performance Center.
And while James makes sure to uphold his personal standard on a daily basis, there might not be a better example of his off-field leadership than on Friday afternoons.
The Chargers defense gathers for a players-only meeting then, and it's James who is up at the front of the room.
"He leads the players-only meetings. He's calling out what the defensive linemen's jobs are, cornerback's jobs are," Marlowe said. "At the walk-throughs, he's so vocal. It's all about communication and he does a fantastic job of that."
Staley added: "He's comfortable. He has been here now, everyone knows that he is one of the faces of this team."
Layne, who joined the Chargers as an undrafted free agent last spring, gave glowing insight to what James provides for the Bolts.
"He'll go over film and coach everybody up. If you have a question, he's damned near a defensive coordinator," Layne said. "You can ask him and he'll know what to do. A lot of stuff, if I have a question about something we put in, I just ask him. He's the standard in our room so I just value his feedback.
He later added: "He's a guy that everyone is going to follow because he's just a stand-up guy. Win, lose or draw, he's going to be the same guy and you're going to get some real honest answers out of him. Everybody knows he's going to go out there and do it, so it's easy to follow a guy that leads by example."
James downplayed his leadership ability, crediting veterans such as Jahleel Addae and Adrian Phillips for showing him the way early on.
"I just show the same love and pass it down," James said.
James' expected return to the lineup comes at a crucial time for the Chargers, who are 2-2 and won two straight games before the bye week.
"I feel like we're in a good place," James said. "We haven't been playing our best football but that's the good thing about it, that's there is still room for improvement. I'm happy we're not peaked out and that we'll keep getting better."
Now, they get ready for a primetime showdown with the Cowboys before hitting the road for a date at Arrowhead Stadium with the division-rival Chiefs.
The Chargers vocal and emotional leader, not to mention one who shines by example, too, said the time is now for the Bolts to start making an early push for a playoff spot.
You can bet that No. 3 will be out in front leading the way.
"I love them all, every game, but when it's primetime and you're the only game playing, there's something special about it," James said of Week 6. "The whole world is watching.
"We'll get ready for Dallas on Monday," James added. "Then whoever is after that, get ready for them. Take it one at a time. When we look up at this thing, we'll be there at the end."
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