It came a couple days later than he hoped, but Derwin James made his training camp debut on Thursday after missing the first four practices with a minor hamstring strain.
Truth be told, Head Coach Anthony Lynn said the rookie probably was able to practice earlier in the week, but they wanted to take a cautious approach.
Regardless of when James took the field, what’s more important is how he looked once he got out there.
The early returns are positive.
“He looks good,” Lynn said. “He looks good in his uniform. He’s a good-looking safety, but it’s just good seeing him back out there because he had such a good offseason. Just a minor setback at the end, but he looked good…He looked comfortable today. It’s one of those situations where we don’t want this to linger, so we’re being overly cautious. If it was up to him, he wanted to go two days ago. He probably could have.”
Even more important than how James looked is how he felt on the field.
“Great,” he said enthusiastically. “The first day back feels great, to be out here playing football…I felt normal and am back to 100 percent. Like I said, I’m just happy to be out here.”
While James was all smiles on Thursday, that doesn’t mean it’s been an easy few days for the first-round pick. The safety’s passion for the game is evident on each and every snap, which is why it was so difficult to stay on the sidelines.
“You work so hard in the offseason getting your body into the best shape, and, you know, it’s so hard to simulate practice and game reps you’ll get in games,” he said. “So, it was frustrating since it’s my first camp, and I wanted to get out there and show what I can do. But I’m happy to be out here.”
Nonetheless, James has a long way to go before reaching his potential, which is why the Chargers are taking a slow and steady approach with him. Despite all the hype, fans must remember James is still only a rookie.
“They’re giving me a little bit (at a time),” he said. “It’s like feeding a baby. They give me a little spoonful, (then I have to) wait a little bit for some more. I just take it. I take the coaching…I’m not trying to come out here and do too much. They know what I can do. They drafted me in the first round for a reason. (I) really (want) to just become a master of my craft, learning my movements and be where I’m supposed to on the field.”
Still, that’s not to say he didn’t make an impression right off the bat.
Whether dropping in coverage to stay stride-for-stride with the tight end or covering the entire field sideline-to-sideline, James gave a taste of what he’ll bring to the Bolts. That includes his ability to play both safety spots – down in the box as a strong safety or back at free as the single-high eraser in the secondary. While he saw time at multiple spots, the Chargers chose to play him mainly at strong for his first training camp practice.
“I’m very comfortable (there),” James said. “I feel like I’m able to play in the box because I’m a much bigger guy — (bigger) than most other guys. I feel like it’s fun in there. You get to move around with the big guys and like I said, anywhere on the field they need me to play, I can play there.”
The Bolts continue with Training Camp practice as Day 5 helps promote local youth football programs.