Derwin James is all the way back.
The All-Pro safety was on the field with his teammates Monday for the first day of organized team activities (OTAs) – nearly 10 months after suffering a knee injury in training camp last year. James said he was officially cleared last Saturday, though he's been feeling good for months.
"It feels great," he said. "I cherish every moment that I'm out there. It felt good to be back on the grass with my coaches and teammates once again. It felt amazing today."
Head coach Brandon Staley credited James, his sports performance team and the Chargers' sports performance team for getting the 24-year-old ready for a full offseason of work. James will help to spearhead a new defensive system in Los Angeles.
"When he's out there, our chances increase by a whole bunch," Staley said. "He's ready to play. What we've tried to do is create a really sound approach to his comeback. Today was a big step for him. He was cleared for full participation. He has had a tremendous offseason. He looks great. Looking forward to a lot more from him."
When asked if he plans to make any adjustments to stay healthy, James acknowledged injuries are a part of the game and "I'm not the first guy to get injured in football and I won't be the last."
James has overcome adversity early in his NFL career. When he was cleared last weekend, he said it reminded him of the long hours of rehab and the amount of work it required to get back to 100 percent.
Though he hasn't played since the 2019 season, James said the way he sees the game has changed.
"I feel like I'm smarter," he said. "As crazy as it sounds, I feel like I'm smarter. The game has slowed down a lot for me. I haven't been out there physically to show you all, but the game has slowed down a lot, and I'm very excited."
Other highlights from James' presser
On Staley's energy:
"It's big. For us to have this period right now, and for you to see the number of guys that are out there right now, I feel like that's only going to help us when it comes time to play. Every team is not going to have all of their guys out there right now. For us to have the number of guys that we have here that want to learn and want to come in and get better every day, I feel like that's only going to help us, being a young team with new coaches. Being a young team with new coaches and new players, getting as many reps as we can is only going to help us."
Teaming up with Nasir Adderley in the secondary
"Like I tell Nas all of the time, we're going to need each other. This defense is going to need us and this team is going to need us. A lot of people are leaning on us. We're going to have to be the guys that's going to make everything go. I told him that we need to communicate with everybody. Our communication has to be on point so that everybody knows where we're at and that everybody knows what we're doing in our defense. I feel like we're going to make a lot of great plays together."
On the new defensive scheme:
"I love it. I can't wait. I can't share too much about what we're going to be doing, but like I said, I'm very excited for this scheme. Just know that we're going to make a lot of plays."
Check out the best photos from the first week of Chargers OTAs at Hoag Performance Center.
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