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For Rookies, Training Camp a Time to 'Earn Your Stripes'

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When the Los Angeles Chargers take the field on Saturday at Jack Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa, each player will be focused on making a favorable impression – especially the ones who are new to the National Football League.

On Friday's episode of Chargers Weekly, former linebacker Shawne Merriman and General Manager Tom Telesco offered sage advice to the rookies on the eve of training camp. Whether a draft pick or undrafted free agent, prior achievements are in the past.

"All these rookies, they were great players in high school and great players in college," Telesco said. "And now, the talent level is a lot better here and it takes a lot more than just talent at this level. It takes preparation and work, so that's what you want to see from the young guys in training camp."

Telesco said rookies should adopt the "less talk, more listen" approach in late July and August. There's a lot of information to retain, and not everything will be perfect at the outset. The key is to be a sponge and show progression of work, he said.

As a former player, Merriman explained the importance for rookies to not get caught up in doing too much out of the gate.

"They have to watch their excitement," he said. "They have to watch just being really, really impulsive because they've been waiting the whole time to get on the field and show people what they can do. That can help you early on, but later on it can go against you. You have to slow things down and realize this is a long season."

Merriman recalled having to earn the respect of perennial Pro Bowlers and future Hall of Famers like LaDainian Tomlinson, Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates during his first season in 2005. Despite entering camp as a highly touted first rounder from the University of Maryland, veterans were in no rush to crown the new guy.

Instead of his popular "Lights Out" moniker, Merriman's training camp name was just a number: "56." He eventually gained the trust of his teammates with a 10-sack season that earned him AP Defensive Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowl honors. It didn't happen overnight, but it did start in the summer.

"It doesn't matter where you were drafted or what you did in college, you're going to have to earn your stripes and this is the time to do it – during training camp," he said.

Listen to the entire episode and subscribe to Chargers Weekly on Apple Podcasts. A five-star rating/review is appreciated and will help spread the word to other fans this offseason. Chargers Weekly is also available on Stitcher, TuneIn and Google Play.

Chargers Training Camp is kicking off soon! Click here for information on attending one of the 14 open practices between July 28 and August 23. Want to attend camp in style? Enter here for your chance to win a VIP camp experience for you and 10 friends, which includes a meet and greet with a player!

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