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Three Takeaways: Donald Parham Jr.'s Return to the Field

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Below are three takeaways from Tuesday's press conferences with Donald Parham Jr., Morgan Fox, Kyle Van Noy, and Renaldo Hill, following the start of the final week of OTAs.

Donald Parham Jr.'s new appreciation for life and football

December 16, 2021. It's a date that will forever carry significance for Donald Parham Jr.

Mere minutes into the Thursday Night Football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, the tight end was taken off in a stretcher after sustaining what was later diagnosed as a concussion. SoFi Stadium fell silent for minutes and a national audience was stunned at the truly frightening sight.

"I remember everything up until I got into the ambulance," Parham Jr. said. "…I've come to terms with that it happened. I've seen [the play] a bunch of times and I've talked to the people that I love, the people around me in my circle, and they said, 'Don't rush coming back,' and all of that kind of stuff, so that was my big thing: making sure that I was ready to come back."

Parham Jr. missed the rest of the season and admitted that going through an experience like that has given him a new outlook on life and football.

"It was crazy because once it happened and I was in the hospital, I was like, 'Will I ever play again?'" he said. "That reality set in very quick. I had to take my time and really just think about if this was something that I wanted to do for the rest of my career, just making sure that if this was what I wanted to do, I would make my mind up to do it and take the right precautions, listen to the doctors and what they say, that kind of thing."

But now, he's back. Parham Jr. was medically cleared to resume activity near the start of the 2022 offseason program and has been getting back to form, working with his teammates, who along with his love for the game, he cites in helping influence the decision to return to football.

"This team makes me feel a part of a family, and that's where I wanted to be … [Head Coach Brandon] Staley has done a very good job in terms of getting us to be a team. He's very prominent about being a team and being a family because these are your brothers that you're going into battle with every Sunday. That's the big thing that I've gotten from him. That's very special to me because family is everything to me. That's where I wanted to be. Extended family is always love. I like that about Staley and what he's trying to do here.

"It's just good to be back, for sure."

Two new Bolts share reasons for joining team

The Chargers added a number of players in free agency, even signing a few after the 2022 NFL Draft.

Two of those include outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy and defensive lineman Morgan Fox.

For Fox, he became the fifth defensive player added who had prior familiarity with Brandon Staley's scheme after the pair was together with the Los Angeles Rams in 2020.

He said the scheme is "starting to come back pretty quick" and that he's "super excited" for what's to come.

"Coach Staley knows how to use everyone," Fox reflected. "He knows how to get the most out of guys. Being able to be a part of this scheme again and being able to move around and have the fun that we had is really exciting."

As for Van Noy, though he didn't have a prior connection to Staley, he admitted he signed with the Bolts because of the "foundation up top" and how he "connected" with the team's head coach.

Both players share a key trait that's helped their games to this day – versatility – and the pair explained why being multiple is key to adding success.

"The more you can do in this business, in general, is super important," Fox mentioned. "Then, in a scheme like this, where you can be a threat at any point on the line, or even off the ball, it helps a lot. Fortunately, we have a ton of guys who are very versatile and can play any position on the line or standing up, which is exciting."

"It starts with IQ," Van Noy added. "I'm very prideful in what is going on around me and how I approach the game … Competition, keep that always up. I take pride in that, 100 percent. I think God blessed me with some athleticism and being able to move around at my size and great trainers to help me get right. I think it's a little bit of everything involved with that. It took a village to get where I am today, so have to give credit to a bunch of coaches to help me get to this point. That's helped out a lot. A little bit of everything."

Key notes from defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill

Tuesday was the first day we got to hear from Chargers defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill sine the offseason program began.

Given how many new defensive players have been added to the Bolts roster since free agency and the draft, Hill spoke at length about a few of them and some defensive nuances:

On Khalil Mack: "He looks amazing. I don't know if you saw him doing the jugs with the DBs over there. He's out there catching one-handed. His foot is good. We're just making sure that we're smart with it, as coaches. He's doing an excellent job out there."

On the depth in the secondary: "Having a guy like [CB] J.C. [Jackson] come in definitely helps with all of that. I think the biggest thing is, I mentioned it last year, is making the room competitive. When you have a guy not really looking over his shoulder and not worrying about who's the next guy — but if you have a guy where it's like, who's going to be the No. 1 or No. 2 guy behind J.C., no one knows. It makes these guys really come out here and perform and know that we do have options. I think that's the way the game should be. There shouldn't be any lax mindset within any room. The better that we can do evaluating and getting the right guys in here, I just think it can make our team much stronger. When we do have those injuries, no one is sweating thinking about who is going to line up there. We know we have a guy that's really capable and we can play everything within our system."

On 'cross-training' cornerbacks: "I think the biggest thing right now is just going to be trying to find those combinations. We've been cross-training [CB Asante Samuel Jr. & CB Bryce Callahan] out there. When we brought Bryce to Denver, we actually brought him to be an outside lane guy. We knew that we had [former Chargers and Broncos CB] Chris Harris [Jr.] on the inside, and it just allowed us to have another guy that was quick-twitch that could play on the outside lane. We went and cut through all of his clips with Chicago, whether that was preseason or through the season, just trying to find his outside lanes, so we brought him in there. We know that he can do that. We know that Asante can do it.

"I think that this process is about cross-training those guys and making sure that if those injuries present themselves, we have different combinations that we can work with, whether that's Asante inside with Mike [Davis] and J.C. [Jackson], outside, or bringing Bryce [Callahan] inside and putting Asante outside. Depending on who we play, all of those guys could be on the field at once. I just think that it gives you a lot of layers to what you can do. I think that it would be smart for us, as coaches, to make sure that we're doing it within our scheme so that we don't have things popping out of the ground. I think that this is the best way to do it in this offseason, cross-training multiple guys at different spots so that those things won't show up in the game during the season."

Check out the best photos from the seventh OTA of the Chargers 2022 offseason.

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